Election scuppers MPs’ inquiry into fracking costs

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From left: Emily Bourne, Alex Chisholm and Andy Samuel giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, 11 February 2019. Photo: Parliament TV

An investigation by MPs into shale gas development and fracking regulation has been put on hold because of the election.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee had announced it would question civil servants about last week’s official , which found that government was unclear about the costs, benefits and liabilities of fracking.

But yesterday’s Commons vote for an election means parliament is likely to be dissolved next week. The hearing, planned for November, could now be shelved entirely or postponed until 2020.

It was due to discuss the findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) report, which also concluded that progress in establishing an English shale gas industry was slower than government had predicted and that public opposition had increased in the past six years to 40%.

191028 PAC investigation on fracking

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The Public Accounts Committee had said representatives from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEID), the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) and the Environment Agency would give evidence on 13 November 2019.

The investigation’s web page referred to issues that could be addressed, including public concerns about earth tremors and environmental regulations, impacts of fracking on climate change and the financial pressures on local authorities, police forces and regulators. Members of the public had been invited to send a submission to the committee.

A spokesperson for the Public Accounts Committee said a decision on whether the hearing would go ahead be taken by the new members after the 12 December election.

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Hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on fracking, 11 February 2019. Photo: Parliament TV

The last time officials from BEIS and the OGA were questioned about fracking by the committee, the chair, Labour’s Meg Hillier, described their answers about responsibility for decommissioning as “a bit vague”.

Another member of the committee, the Conservative MP Lee Rowley, said he was disappointed that officials had been unable to give clear answers on questions around liability for clean up costs.

Mr Rowley, who opposes plans by Ineos to explore for shale gas at Marsh Lane in his North East Derbyshire constituency, said the NAO report was “helpful in highlighting the problems with our fracking framework and how fracking will be done”. He said:

“It’s reports like this that actually demonstrate in detail why fracking has lost the support of the UK and why it’s not the place to go for our future energy needs.”

This content was originally published here.

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