Tory minister backing fracking drive has never visited shale site

From The Guardian: The minister spearheading the UK’s renewed push for fracking has admitted she has never been to a shale gas well.

In the week that fracking restarted in the UK for the first time in seven years, the energy minister, Claire Perry, revealed to a fellow Conservative MP that she had not yet had the chance to visit a shale site.

Perry has spent the past few days calling on the public to “trust the science of shale gas extraction” and insisted that fracking is compatible with tackling climate change.

But asked how many times she had visited a shale exploration site, she said: “I have had a number of meetings with stakeholders interested in shale gas exploration, but have not yet had an opportunity to visit a site.”

The written parliamentary answer came in response to a question by the Tory MP Lee Rowley, who has prospective shale sites in his constituency.

Rose Dickinson, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “Unlike the local community who protest outside the Preston New Road site in Lancashire every single day, it is surprising that the minister has never even been curious enough to visit.

“That the minister can cheerlead this unpopular industry without meeting the people living next door – the people who have to put up with trucks, noise, and the industrialisation of their local countryside – is astounding.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

UK fracking rules on earthquakes could be relaxed, says Tory minister

From The Guardian: Rules designed to halt fracking operations if they trigger minor earthquakes could be relaxed as the shale industry begins to expand, the Tory energy minister, Claire Perry, has said.

A series of small tremors seven years ago prompted tough regulations that mean even very low levels of seismic activity now require companies to suspend fracking.

The shale gas firm Cuadrilla plans to start fracking near Blackpool this week if it can see off a last-minute legal challenge on Thursday.

If seismic sensors detect anything above 0.5 magnitude on the Richter scale – far below what people can feel at the surface – the company would have to stop and review its operations.

But Perry has told a fellow Conservative MP that the monitoring system was “set at an explicitly cautious level … as we gain experience in applying these measures, the trigger levels can be adjusted upwards without compromising the effectiveness of the controls”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Michael Gove approves the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory

From InsideEcology: The Badger Trust has condemned the decision by Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, to approve 11 new badger cull licences in England in 2018, bringing the total in operation to 31.

As a result of this major expansion of badger cull, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last 5 years of the badger cull combined.

Despite a huge increase in the number of badgers to be killed, the Government has yet to provide any reliable evidence that badger culling is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.

With no effective independent monitoring of cull contractors, the Badger Trust is also increasingly concerned that badgers will die long painful deaths due to the continued use of controlled shooting, a culling method which is condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.

The Badger Trust has already raised serious animal welfare concerns with Natural England over the trapping of badgers for up to 12 hours in cages in the heat wave in Gloucestershire and Somerset, under existing supplementary cull licences which have been operation since June.

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Tory government drops fracking question from public attitude tracker

From The Guardian: The Tory government has stopped asking the British public whether they are for or against fracking for shale gas, just weeks before the first fracking operation in seven years is due to start.

The number of people against extracting shale gas has outweighed those in favour since 2015, and the latest polling by officials found 32% opposed with just 18% in support.

Now the Tory government, which backs fracking and recently relaxed planning rules to help the shale industry, has temporarily suspended that line of questioning.

“This is scandalous as the government knows full well that there is overwhelming public opposition to fracking,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary.

Tony Bosworth, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Perhaps having recently tried to change planning rules so that fracking companies could drill more easily, they were just scared of a record bad survey result for them this time, so have stopped even asking anymore.”

The question was dropped from the latest update of the four-year-old public attitudes tracker run by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“As we suffer in the heatwave and Greece burns, the Tories are signing off a fracking bill that is laughable”

Harry Cockburn writes in The Independent: “In Greece, the death count may reach triple figures. Wildfires have melted cars, wiped villages off the map and decimated families… What could our governments do to alleviate the carnage? What about some fracking? What about pumping millions upon millions of gallons of water and chemicals down into earth to break rocks to release gas which we can then burn?”

[Read column on Independent website…]

Environmental campaigners slam the Tories’ ‘Road to Zero’ emissions strategy

From Morning Star: The Tory government’s “Road to Zero” strategy to reduce vehicle emissions announced today has been slammed by environmental campaigners.

Morten Thaysen of Greenpeace, described the target of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel-burning cars from 2040 as “weak by international standards.”

“The car industry should be in the doghouse for its diesel pollution and stalling emissions reductions,” he added.

“But instead of being pulled up, it’s yet again being given a free pass from the government to carry on business as usual.”

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Tory MP blocks law to protect police dogs and horses from getting stabbed

From Metro: Plans to give police dogs and horses extra legal protections from attacks have been blocked by a Tory MP. There were groans in the Commons as Sir Christopher Chope dealt a blow to campaigners by announcing he objected to the Animal Welfare Service Animals Bill.

[Read article on Metro website…]

UK’s new air pollution strategy ‘hugely disappointing’, says Labour

From The Guardian: A new clean air strategy published by the UK government has been criticised as “hugely disappointing” by the Labour Party. Other groups said it did little to tackle the dirty diesel vehicles that are the main source of toxic air in urban areas.

The new clean air strategy is a response to an EU directive on cutting harmful emissions. An air quality plan, published in July 2017, is related to a separate EU directive on cleaner air. The latter plan was condemned as “woefully inadequate” by city leaders and “inexcusable” by doctors, and was ruled illegally poor in February, the third such high court defeat for ministers.

On Thursday, the government suffered another legal blow, with the UK referred to Europe’s highest court over its failure to tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution, which mostly comes from diesel vehicles.

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Brexit could wreck green agenda, says UN

From The Guardian: The United Nations has warned the government that Britain’s reputation is at risk over plans that would significantly weaken protections for the environment after Brexit.

In a stern intervention, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, called on the environment secretary Michael Gove to honour his promise to deliver a “green Brexit”, ensuring the environment would not suffer from Britain’s EU departure.

The warning comes after proposals to protect the climate after Brexit were dismissed as “toothless” by green campaigners. Under the plans, the new post-Brexit watchdog would not have the power to take the government to court over breaches of environmental standards. At the moment, the government is answerable at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which often forces ministers to act.

Campaigners have warned that the current plans would leave Britain with a weaker system for enforcing environmental safeguards than those maintained in the United States by Donald Trump.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Fast-track fracking plan by Tory Government prompts criticism

From The Guardian: Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system in England, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

Greenpeace said the government had turned a deaf ear to communities and councils, and would make “exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

The majority of older people across England are living in areas breaching air quality limits

From The Labour Party: New Labour analysis of figures obtained from the House of Commons Library reveals the numbers of older people living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution across England. The analysis reveals that over 7 million older people aged 60 and over lived in areas which breached legal pollution limits in 2015, including:

  • 3.7 million people aged 70 and over
  • 1.45 million people aged 80 and over
  • 257,000 people aged 90 and over

In total, 56 per cent of all people aged 60 and over in England lived in an area which breached air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide in 2015.

Outside of London, Yorkshire & the Humber had the highest percentage of people aged 60 and over living in areas breaching air quality standards (79 per cent), followed by the North East (72 per cent), North West (67 per cent) and the West Midlands (62 per cent).

[Read full article on Labour Party website…]

Green Party says Tories’ environment rhetoric is dangerous

From The Guardian: The Conservative Party’s rhetoric on the environment is a “fluffy communications strategy” when change on plastics could happen in half the time pledged, the co-leader of the Greens has said ahead of her party conference speech.

“The government’s 25-year environment plan – finally published a few months ago – is desperately disappointing,” she will say. “A vague promise to ban ‘avoidable’ plastics in a quarter of a century is woefully inadequate and easy to do, with the politicians who wrote it likely to have retired or expired by the time it would come into force.”

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of her speech, Lucas said she thought the Conservatives’ electoral strategy on the environment could be dangerous.

“It is dangerous to have a nice, fluffy communications strategy which lulls people into the sense you can trust this government on the environment, when time and time again they’ve shown you simply can’t,” she said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Air pollution: UK government loses third court case as plans ruled ‘unlawful’

From The Guardian: For the third time, the Tory government has been slammed by the courts for failing to produce an adequate plan to tackle the growing problem of air pollution, in a landmark judgment that will force ministers back to the drawing board in their efforts to clean up dirty urban air.

The high court ruled that the government’s current policy on air pollution was “unlawful”, and ordered changes. Air pollution has become a leading test case for environmental legal activism in the UK, as scientists have found as many as 40,000 people a year are dying from dirty air across the country.

As a result of Wednesday’s judgment, clean air in the UK will be overseen by the courts, rather than ministers, in a “wholly exceptional” ruling in which the government was roundly defeated.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

London reaches legal air pollution limit just one month into the new year

From The Guardian: Air pollution in London has reached the legal limit for the whole of 2018 less than a month into the year, prompting calls for the government to “get a grip and show they’re serious about protecting health”.

Toxic air has been at illegal levels in the capital and most urban areas in the UK since 2010 and results in around 40,000 early deaths a year.

The date of this year’s reaching of the limit, at Brixton Road in Lambeth, is actually a significant improvement on previous years: for the last decade air pollution has reached illegal levels no later than six days into the year.

The improvement is partly the result of action taken by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who introduced cleaner buses on routes through pollution blackspots and charges to deter dirty vehicles from central London. “But I have one hand tied behind my back due to government policies and inaction,” he told the Guardian.

Clean air plans put forward by ministers have already twice been declared illegal at the high court for failing to cut air pollution in the “shortest time possible”, as EU law requires. The government is now awaiting the verdict in a third case brought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, after a hearing earlier in January.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“Theresa May, charging us for plastic won’t make up for those awful Tory environmental policies you’re keeping quiet about”

Caroline Lucas writes in The Independent… “Stopping climate breakdown won’t happen by tinkering around the edges of an economy reliant on fossil fuels – which is why the Government’s record doesn’t live up to May’s claim today that we are ‘leading the world on climate change’.”

[Read column on Independent website…] 

Have the Tories blown hot and cold on the environment?

From BBC News: Once in power, critics say, David Cameron’s enthusiasm for the green agenda began to wane, and some questioned his genuine commitment to the cause.
 
There was a planned sell-off of state-owned woodland in England.
 
In 2013, it was reported that David Cameron had told Downing Street aides to “get rid of all the green crap” – referring to environmental levies on energy bills.
 
And he backed fracking, to the dismay of green campaigners.
 
After the 2015 election yielded a Conservative majority, the Green Deal for home insulation was scrapped and subsidies for on-shore wind farms came to an end a year earlier than initially planned.

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