Landowners will be put at risk of long-term liability as the government moves one step closer to allowing fracking companies to drill without landowners’ permission, warns the CLA.
Legislation that would give fracking companies a statutory right of access similar to the coal industry is to be put before parliament as primary legislation, despite the government’s own public consultation showing 99% opposition from more than 40,600 respondents.
This would change the current legislation, which requires companies to seek permission from landowners whose land they want to drill, including all those whose land is drilled horizontally.
CLA President Henry Robinson said: “This is a vitally important issue that must be addressed before development continues further.
“This is a new sector in the UK which is expected to expand rapidly and, worryingly, significant unknowns remain.
“It is greatly concerning that there continues to be a lack of information from the government regarding long-term liability. No assurances have been given to land and property owners that they are fully protected from losses or claims for damages should issues arise.
“Oil and gas operator interest in the land is relatively short term and there seems to be little protection for landowners should problems occur when operators become insolvent or are no longer in business decades down the line.”
Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing condemned the decision and said it did not take a considered or evidence-based approach.
“The UK government’s failure to listen to our concerns is of great worry. That they have also failed to listen to 99% of respondents to their own consultation just emphasises their gung-ho approach to the whole issue of fracking.”
Although the UK government acknowledged “the large number of responses against the proposal,” and the “wide range of arguments”, it dismissed the concerns, saying it did not identify any issues that persuaded it to change the proposals.
This was, the government said, because the majority of respondents failed to answer specific questions in the consultation. However, 92% of the 4,065 respondents who did answer the questions were opposed to the proposals.
Of those who offered alternative ideas to the proposal, 56% suggested incentivising and investing in renewables instead of fracking.
Respondents also thought that every landowner should be consulted and that the proposal to include a “voluntary scheme” for companies to pay communities should be made statutory. However, 84% believed such a scheme shouldn’t exist, citing bribery as a concern.
Concerns raised in the consultation included the effect on the environment and public health, subsidence or other geographical instability as well as the principle of removing land rights.