CHURCH officials have reassured residents that the decision to allow a gas and oil company to carry out surveys on land in Halsall was forced on them by government regulations and was NOT a tacit approval of fracking.
Earlier this month the Champion revealed that exploration company Aurora was undertaking a six-week geophysical survey in West Lancashire with a view to a possible future application for planning permission for exploratory drilling for fracking in the area.
The company plans to do a geophysical survey over part of a 100 km-sq area for which it holds a petroleum exploration and development licence (PEDL) from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Edward Mason, head of responsible investment of the Church Commissioners for England owners of the Halsall Estate, which is in the proposed testing area, said that they are in negotiations with the company to allow access for the survey as the government can otherwise order them to do so.
However, he emphasised that the agreement does not cover later test drilling or shale gas exploration on the land which is a rural area and does not contain any religious buildings.
He said that they never asked to be approached for the survey and won't receive any financial benefits if it is carried out.
Once the government grants a PEDL licence, there is no requirement for companies to consult with communities or landowners. And landowners who withhold consent risk being ordered to allow access by the High Court.
Edward Mason said: “As responsible landowners, we entered into negotiations with Aurora, now at an advanced stage, to reach an agreement that provides full protections and indemnities for our tenants and us, while allowing that access. A geophysical survey does not create a presumption of later test drilling or extraction and the agreement we are negotiating covers seismic testing only.
“The Church of England has no official policy either for or against shale gas exploration in the UK known as ‘fracking’. The Church Commissioners’ policy on climate change notes that, while shale gas may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if used for power generation instead of coal as part of the transition to a low-carbon economy, other issues such as environmental impacts and the effect on local communities also have to be taken into account.
“This is in stark contrast to the regime for, say, onshore wind, where local government and communities are, rightly, involved from the start
“It is inequitable to have different regimes for different energy sources, and to privilege fossil fuel-based energy over renewable energy given the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy.”