Keep calm and frack on
Up to £20,000 cash payments to welcome fracking? This is what Theresa May is proposing… cash payments between £5,000 and £20,000 to individual households to ‘persuade’ reluctant families to accept the controversial method to extract shale gas in their area. Many have accused Theresa May of trying to bribe and silence the public into accepting fracking.
The Prime Minister plans to amend the £1 billion shale wealth fund so the money can go direct to residents rather than being given to councils or community trusts to spend. The shale wealth fund was established by ex-chancellor George Osborne with the idea in mind to allow 10% of the proceeds from fracking to be given to councils or community trusts to spend. It is expected that the new fund could deliver as much as £10m to each community where wells are sited. However, the government has admitted that payments to households living near a fracking well would not be distributed until a new site begins operating and producing gas which could take at least 5 years.
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, commented on May’s proposal saying: “You can’t put a price on the quality of air you breathe, the water you drink, and the beauty of our countryside.”
Green Party MEP, Molly Scott Cato said: “It is another worrying indication of the failure of commitment to tackle climate change, first demonstrated by May in her abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.”
Hydraulic fracking involves drilling miles underground and blasting shale rock with a high-pressure water mixture to release the natural gas trapped inside. It has definitely been a controversial subject in the news as recent studies have shown that fracking can have a negative effect on health such as triggering asthma flare-ups not to mention the impact it could have on air and water pollution as well as potential earth tremors. However, Public Health England believes that if fracking operations are run properly and well regulated, then the risks to public health from exposure to emissions from shale gas extraction will be low. Like anything, there are both positives and negatives to take into consideration but with May’s proposal to direct funds made from fracking back to individual households, will this change the public’s perception of fracking and will they be more open to it?
Speaking ahead of a consultation launch on the fund, May said: “The government I lead will be driven by the interests of many – ordinary families for whom life is harder than many people in politics realise. As I said on my first night as Prime Minister: when we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful but of you. This announcement is an example of putting those principles into action.”
The amendment to the shale gas fund could contribute to residents being less resistant when it comes to fracking, however, it seems to have received negative publicity from critics as they have branded it as a ‘bribe’ to householders which could divert cash away from other community priorities like infrastructure or skills training. The next step is for the government to have a consultation to explore the priorities and benefit schemes of the shale wealth fund, the government has openly asked for comments relating to this which can be emailed to email@example.com. From this, the government should release the response later this year.
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