(Title Image: Wales Online)
AMs are, from time to time, chosen at random to introduce their own laws. With powers over fracking set to be devolved, Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) has proposed a law which would ban fracking outright in Wales – a proposal debated by AMs yesterday.
It has to be said from the outset that no Bill has been introduced, and Simon would still have to be drawn at random to introduce a Bill (if the Welsh Government don’t introduce it themselves). This was a debate on the idea of having a law.
The Welsh Government have already introduced a moratorium/block on planning applications for fracking. Fracking involves pumping fluid at high pressures deep into the ground in order to force gas or oil upwards to be used to produce energy.
Parts of the south Wales coalfield are considered highly suitable for fracking due to the geology, but there are serious environmental concerns, such as excessive use of water, the use or release of harmful chemicals into the surrounding areas, the impact on local water supplies and even the prospect of man-made earthquakes.
Simon told AMs that fracking would neither help address climate change or reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, undermining Welsh Government policy on renewable energy.
Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) warned that many US states had stripped down their environmental laws to allow fracking to take place.
Shadow Environment Secretary, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), believed the moratorium is the right approach, but an outright ban would go too far as we need all of the evidence before making such a drastic policy move.
Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) was more unequivocal in his opposition to fracking. He likened it to “blasting the last bit of gas out of the Earth to maintain an industrial lifestyle” and living in denial about humanity’s impact on the environment. Wales should aim to become leaders in clean energy.
Michelle Brown AM (UKIP, North Wales) was also worried about fracking the environmental concerns are yet to be properly addressed. However, she believed a full ban pre-empts evidence on whether fracking is genuinely dangerous or not. UKIP supports local referendums on the issue.
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) wanted assurances that any future Bill wouldn’t allow fracked gas to be imported, while David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) argued there was a lack of scientific evidence on fracking’s safety.
In response, Environment Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), told AMs that the Welsh Government fully supported the sentiments of the proposal and had a manifesto commitment to oppose fracking, refusing to rule out introducing/supporting legislation at some point. However, she believed a simple revision of planning guidelines should achieve the policy objectives.