The Office for Unconventional Gas

In his Autumn Statement last week George Osborne announced the creation on an Office for Unconventional Gas

The Chancellor announced that the Government will establish an Office for Unconventional Gas. This will join up responsibilities across government and provide a single point of contact for investors ensuring a simplified and streamlined regulatory process

Detail is pretty sketchy just now, but given the use of the words “simplified” and “streamlined” and the explicit function of it being “a single point of contact for investors”, it is pretty clear that this is all about making it easier for the gas companies and has very little, if anything to do with the obvious requirement to make the regulation fit for purpose.

The MP for Fylde, Mark Menzies, has stated in Parliament that

It is also clear from my enquiries that close, joined-up regulation and scrutiny is required to reassure the public that this process is safe- should it be allowed to go ahead – which is why I feel an independent body would be helpful to link all of the various regulatory agencies together to work as one. I hope my recommendations will be adopted by the Secretary of State. Unless these things happen, as a minimum, I could not support the extraction of gas.

Those of us who were heartened by his words at the time did not expect Mr Osborne to react by creating a “simplified” and “streamlined” regime and we hope that Mr Menzies would not suggest that this is a result with which local residents can feel in the least satisfied.

We need an industry funded independent regulatory body making sure the interests of local people and the local environment are looked after competently by the DECC, EA and HSE.

What we do NOT need is another government body costing more tax payers’ money and making life easier for Mr Osborne’s friends like Lord Browne by “streamlining” and “simplifying” the already inadequate regulatory regime.

Mr Menzies has been made aware in detail of the limitations of current regulatory regime and he has not got the minimum that he insisted was necessary, i.e. an independent body to link all of the various regulatory agencies together to work as one, and indeed there is now no prospect of one.

After what he stated in Parliament Mr Menzies cannot now reasonably continue to support  the extraction of shale gas, either in exploration or production, and we fully expect him to ask some very probing questions about this issue in Parliament.

We sincerely hope that he will not let his constituents down here.

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