Molly is opposed to fracking and believes strongly that we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. She recently recorded a video message on this subject setting out clearly her opposition to shale gas extraction.
In August, the Oil & Gas Authority (an Executive Agency of the Department of Energy and Climate Change – DECC) published the 14th Round of Onshore Oil and Gas Licence Applications, which could potentially see fracking across Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset.
Licences were issued for 159 blocks in total, across the UK. The licenses apply to all forms of oil and gas extraction and are not specific to the type of resource (e.g. shale gas) or extraction method, but could include fracking.
Some 22 licence blocks have been issued across Dorset, Wilts and Somerset alone, and these would impact on many sensitive and designated areas, including the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Poole Harbour, The Quantock Hills, Exmoor National Park, and Salisbury Plain to name just a few.
A number of areas of designation are potentially affected including SSSI, RAMSAR, Special Protected Area (SPA), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), national parks and a world heritage site (WHS).
Alongside the publication of the licence blocks was a Consultation on Habitats Regulations Assessments of 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing. The consultation sought comments on the Oil & Gas Authority’s strategic plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for these licence blocks.
The consultation was issued on 18th August 2015 and closed on 29th September 2015. However, in Molly’s view this did not allow sufficient time for people to respond fully and she has written to the Secretary of State Amber Rudd on this matter.
The issuing of a licence has no bearing upon the need for planning permission or any necessary environmental permits to explore or extract oil and gas.
If and when a company decides it wishes to explore the potential for oil or gas extraction within its licence area, it needs to apply to the Mineral Planning Authority (e.g. county council or unitary authority) for planning permission. This application must show where the well site is intended to be located, together with details of the site layout.
A separate planning permission is then needed for the production phase if the exploration/appraisal phase identifies potentially viable reserves.
Production of oil and gas is likely to have a bigger impact than a test well. For this reason there is no automatic right to consent for production even if permission has previously been granted for exploration.
We would therefore encourage local people who are concerned about this issue to write to their local member of parliament and to the leader of the council at their local Minerals Planning Authority (either your county council or equivalent unitary authority) as well as their local councillors to express their considerable concerns.
You can rest assured that Molly will be working hard to maintain a strong opposition on this issue across the South West and in Europe, as will the Green Party of England & Wales.