The Infrastructure Bill and the new legal duty to maximise emissions
Crossposted from NoDashforGas
The Infrastructure Bill and the new legal duty to maximise emissions by Melanie Strickland.
Published 11 December 2014
“It reads like a sweetie shop for corporate lobbyists, and for all those still intent on their neo-liberal deregulatory crusade.” Jonathon Porritt in his blog sums up everything that’s wrong with the Infrastructure Bill.
The Bill doesn’t explain how it relates to the Climate Change Act 2008, which placed a legal duty on the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1990 levels, by 2050. In fact there’s no mention of climate change at all.
At clause 36 it states that the ‘principal objective’ and strategy in relation to UK petroleum is ‘maximum economic recovery’ – that is – get as much oil and gas out of the ground as possible. The Bill even sets out how this is to be done: by the ‘development, construction, deployment and use of equipment used in the petroleum industry’ and also by ‘collaboration’ between different companies involved in petroleum extraction and processing, and the State.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change must produce a strategy to ensure that as much UK petroleum is extracted from UK territory, and before that strategy is finalised he must consult with such persons as he thinks appropriate, and consider their representations. So he’ll consult with oil and gas companies which make their profits from extracting fossil fuels that are destabilising the climate. Destabilising the climate. Let that sink in for a sec – the fossil fuel industry is destabilising the climate and now Parliament are legislating to make maximising petroleum extraction a legal obligation of both the government and petroleum companies.
The idea of ‘maximising economic recovery’ was recommended by the Wood Review – Sir Ian Wood was tasked by the government to carry out an ‘independent’ review of the recovery of UK oil and gas in 2013. Wood founded and was made rich by the Wood Group, a multinational oil and gas services company. The government welcomed and accepted the recommendations, and in true Orwellian fashion stated in its call for views about implementing the recommendations:
“It is vital, both for Britain’s energy security and long-term economic outlook, that steps are taken to maximise the economic recovery of our indigenous hydrocarbon reserves. This approach is consistent with the Government’s decarbonisation objectives.”
Clause 36 helps the fracking industry since fracking is one of the ways to extract the remaining UK oil and gas reserves. The Bill, at clause 38, also changes trespass law so that fracking companies can drill below people’s land at depths of below 300m, without their consent. The horizontal drills are at depths far below 300m. Fracking companies have a wide right of use which includes the right to ‘pass any substance through’ (that includes toxic chemicals), and to keep ‘any substance’ or infrastructure in the ground, or remove any substance. Basically, anything goes down there, if you’re searching for, or otherwise exploiting, oil or gas.
In addition, whilst air pollution prematurely kills many tens of thousands of people in the UK, primarily in London, and harms many more, the Bill supports massive roads investment. There are no clean air targets, but £15bn will be provided for new road building under the government’s Road Investment Strategy which is repeatedly referenced in the Bill.
To me, the new duty to maximise oil and gas extraction (and therefore greenhouse gas emissions) is the most shocking aspect of the Bill, and it seems to underlie everything else. It’s the clearest possible signal that the political establishment is not going to be part of the solution to tackling climate change, in fact it will defend and promote the life destroying status quo (fossil fuel culture) to the end. The task of defending Earth is up to us.
By Melanie Strickland