Community benefit row threatens UK fracking boom
A new thread has opened in the heated debate over fracking in the UK, this time regarding the share of the revenue communities should get for shale gas discoveries made in their backyards.
The fracking industry has already offered to give communities in the UK £100,000 for every well it drills, and 1% of revenues if shale gas is extracted.
The government has supported this proposal, but according to reports in the Telegraph, the Local Government Association (LGA) has written to the prime minister warning that local authorities could deny planning permission for drill sites unless communities are given a 10% cut of revenues.
Michael Fallon, minister of state for energy, told the Telegraph that such demands could damage the chances of a shale gas revolution coming to the UK.
“Imposing too high a levy on revenues could make shale gas projects entirely unprofitable and leave the gas and oil in the ground”, he said.
However, Mike Jones, chair of the LGA’s Environment and Housing board, insists that 1% is not enough.
“In order to put a well in, you need planning permission. In the absence of a generous community benefit regime that is persuasive it’s going to be very difficult to get the community to support these applications through the planning system”, he said.
The Telegraph itself has become embroiled in the fracking row, after being criticised by environmental campaigners over its reporting of planned anti-fracking protests in Manchester.
In an article, the Telegraph ‘revealed’ that leading campaigners from protest group No Dash For Gas “have no connection to the area”, and do not represent local opinion.
In a statement, No Dash For Gas reject these claims, and accuse the Telegraph of deliberately picking out two of its activists, Aneaka Kellay and Ewa Jasiewicz, with racist connotations.
“The fact that local Salford activists who have been much more vocal and prominent in the campaign have been overlooked and Aneaka and Ewa targeted instead shows how this xenophobic agenda is being pursued here”, the campaign group said.
“On the issue of jobs – the idea that the fracking industry has working class peoples’ interests at heart or that it could bring mass employment to the UK is a myth, as empty as the one now thoroughly discounted, which was that fracking will bring down fuel bills.”
Last week, anti-fracking protestors delivered a giant wind turbine blade as a ‘Christmas gift’ to shale gas firm IGas, blocking the entrance to its drilling site in Barton Moss, Salford.
Despite these fears, the industry appears to have the full support of the UK government. Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement confirmed the introduction of sizable tax breaks for fracking companies.
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