Infrastructure Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by 38 Degrees Stroud (IB 18)

Dear Hon. Members of the Committee

Re: Infrastructure Bill 2014-15, clauses 36 and 38-43.

1. I write on behalf of local citizens group 38 Degrees Stroud in response to the invitation to the public to have a say on this Bill in the current Committee Stage.  We have a special interest in protecting the health and integrity of the UK countryside and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, and for this reason we are writing in support of the amendments tabled by Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker to remove the above mentioned clauses from the Bill.

2. More specifically, we believe that these clauses should be rejected for the following reasons.

3. Re clause 36 - we are gravely concerned that clause 36 alters the Petroleum Act 1988 by:

a) explicitly placing the extraction of fossil fuels above all environmental and all other planning considerations in defiance of internationally recognised environmental and climate evidence, thereby running counter to the steps which all governments and industry have a duty of care to implement, which is to say the duty to put renewable power and fuel generation first and foremost;

b) prioritising the economic aspect of petroleum extraction before any practical considerations of fuel need or fuel use, thereby attempting to put in place a legal mandate to support the oil and gas industry regardless of its effectiveness and harm (even if it were a good idea to support fossil fuel extraction, which we strongly believe it is not);

c) with proposed subsection 9A (2), the word "must", mandating the Secretary of State to produce a strategy for this objective, which we are concerned confers statutory immunity on the Secretary of State when he/she acts in support of this objective;

d) with proposed subsection 9A (3), allowing the Secretary of State to "relate this strategy to other matters", which we are concerned gives him/her carte blanche to support the oil and gas industry in whatever way he/she deems appropriate.

4. Collectively, clause 36 is drafted to implement a wrongful legal duty upon the government to protect the interests of the petroleum industry, thereby discriminating any non-petroleum industries. In so doing, those individuals who profit from that industry sidestep any legal duty to ensure the UK transitions away to a non-petroleum based energy industry.

5. Re clauses 38-43 - we are gravely concerned that these sections collectively and disjunctively give legal priority to fossil fuel and in particular to shale oil and gas extraction ("fracking"):

a) despite proven serious risks to the health and integrity of the landscape (including air and water) and its inhabitants as demonstrated where fracking has already taken place*;

b) against the wishes of the public;

c) without proper public disclosure of the implications of such extraction - short and long term health and environmental risks, scale of industrialisation, burden on infrastructure;

d) against the evidence that fracking does not provide a viable return on either energy or capital invested**;

e) above the promotion of renewables which, as stated above, is the only justifiable direction for government and industry to take in the current environmental and climate context.

6. We therefore strongly urge the Committee to recommend to the House that the amendments tabled by Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker be adopted and clauses 36 and 38-43 removed.

7. We further propose that:

a) an amendment be tabled promoting a very different "primary objective" on energy, i.e. an objective to maximise renewable and environmentally friendly generation of energy and fuel according to the principle of "first, do no harm" - and we invite any MP to table such an amendment to the Bill;

b) the UK government create and adopt an Environment Charter similar to that existing in France and adopted into French law in 2005***.

*See Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking , Concerned Health Professionals of New York , December 2014

**See Drill Baby Drill , J David Hughes, Post Carbon Institute, 2013

***See France, Environment Charter , 2004 ( Charte de l’environnement 2004 ); France, Constitutional Law No.2005-205 , 1st March 2005 ( Loi constitutionnelle n°2005-205 du 1 mars 2005 )

December 2014

Prepared 6th January 2015