Wakefield councillors to call on government to reverse decision to lift fracking ban

Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.
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The government today lifted the ban on the controversial process in England.

In one of her first acts as Prime Minister, Liz Truss backed fracking as a way to help boost the UK’s domestic gas supplies.

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The practice was halted in 2019, amid opposition from environmentalists and fears over earth tremors.

Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.
Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.

Wakefield Councillors now plan to reiterate their concerns over the possibility of fracking in the district.

In 2015, onshore exploration licenses were issued to shale gas operators giving exclusive rights to drill for shale gas in the Wakefield district, subject to planning permission and consent from regulatory bodies.

The licences covered areas including Walton, Newmillerdam, Crigglestone, Ackworth, Sandal, Crofton, South Elmsall, Hemsworth, Normanton, Stanley, Outwood, Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley.

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Labour councillors plan to highlight the impacts that fracking could have on local communities and the environment in a motion to be put to a full Council meeting next Wednesday (September 28).

Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.
Anti fracking protestors pictured in 2016. Councillors in Wakefield are set to call on the government to rethink its decision to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas.
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Councillor Jack Hemingway, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for climate change and the environment, said: “You only need to look across the border to Lancashire—where a magnitude 2.9 event was recorded in 2019 – to see the impact that fracking can have on a community.

“Later that same year, the government announced that fracking would not be allowed to proceed unless further evidence was provided that it can be carried out safely.

“It appears that no such evidence has come to light.

“Concerns associated with fracking are not just limited to the threat of earthquakes.

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“Potential environmental impacts also include ground water contamination, noise and air pollution and use of natural water resources to support operations.

“This announcement seriously calls into question the government’s commitment to tackling climate change.

“I imagine that many residents across the Wakefield district, like me, are worried about the impact that this latest government u-turn could potentially have on our area.”

Back in 2016, the Labour Group moved a similar motion to Council, calling for the withdrawal of fracking exploration licenses across the Wakefield district until serious concerns about the environment and health had been addressed.

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Stan Bates, Labour councillor for South Elmsall and South Kirkby, said: “The Conservative government made a manifesto commitment not to support the extraction of shale gas unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.

“It has also previously concluded that fracking will not help our energy security, or lower bills.

“As an elected representative of an area that was included in an exploratory drilling license prior to the 2019 ban, I am not prepared to sit back when such serious question marks remain over the potential environmental and health impacts of fracking.”

The motion calls on the Council to write to the Prime Minister to reiterate its continued opposition to fracking.

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It also calls on the government to rethink its decision, and ban fracking permanently in the UK.

Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood also condemned plans to lift the fracking ban in Parliament today.

Mr Lightwood asked Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: "Fracking is expensive and dangerous, but it’s also a disaster for our climate.

"Does the Secretary of State recognise that if every country matched his plans to extract “every ounce” of gas, the planet will warm by over three degrees, spelling climate disaster.

"Does he not understand that this is a plan borne of climate denial and economic illiteracy?"

The Secretary of State did not directly answer Mr Lightwood’s questions.