MP launches bill to stop fracking earthquakes

Seismic events at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site up to 14 December 2018. Source: Refracktion

A Conservative MP from a constituency with an Ineos shale gas site is seeking to introduce legislation to stop fracking companies causing earthquakes.

Lee Rowley, who represents North East Derbyshire, said he wanted to put into law the current regulations on fracking-induced seismicity.

His Ten Minute Rule bill, to be called the Fracking (Seismic Activity) Bill, will be introduced into parliament on 19 March 2019.

Under the regulations, known as the traffic light system or TLS, companies must stop fracking for at least 18 hours, if their operations induce seismic activity of 0.5ML (local magnitude) or more.

Two shale gas companies have lobbied for a relaxation of the TLS.

Ineos, which has permission for shale gas exploration at Marsh Lane, Derbyshire, and Cuadrilla, which has fracked in Lancashire, have said the industry will not be commercially-viable unless restrictions are lifted.

Cuadrilla caused a total of 56 earthquakes during fracking at Preston New Road from October-December 2018. It stopped operations at least five times, at a cost, reported by the company, of £94,000 a day.

Mr Rowley’s predecessor in North East Derbyshire, the former Labour MP, Natascha Engel, has called for a review of the regulations, in her role as the government’s shale gas commissioner.

Any relaxation of the traffic light system has been strongly opposed by anti-fracking campaigners.

Lee Rowley 181031 Parliamentlive tv

Lee Rowley MP, in a debate about fracking, 31 October 2018. Photo: Parliamentlive.tv

Mr Rowley said:

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:

Ten Minute Rule bills are a type of Private Members’ Bill which allow a backbench MP to make a case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes. An MP who opposes the proposal can make a speech for another 10 minutes, before the House of Commons decides whether or not the Bill should be introduced. If the MP is successful, the bill is taken to have its first reading.

Most Ten Minute Rule bills rarely become law because the government usually opposes them in the later stages or there is often not enough parliamentary time for debate.

According to parliamentary statistics, a total of 15 Ten Minute Rule bills have received royal assent, since 1983.

DrillOrDrop also invited Natascha Engel to comment on Mr Rowley’s bill. This post will be updated with any response.

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