In fighting to protect Kent’s beautiful countryside from in-appropriate or un-sustainable development, and in so doing safeguard the wider environment, it is sometimes difficult to identify friends, foes, and ‘fence-sitters’. However, Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, has made this easy for us…and he obviously has no problems with climate change!
In a recent interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Smith gave his support to the expansion of shale gas exploitation across England and Wales, declaring it to be “very beneficial for our energy needs.” He appears to have conveniently overlooked the fact that shale gas is still a fossil fuel, and it’s use will continue to accelerate climate change. He also made scant reference to other environmental concerns, suggesting they could be easily managed.
While he later qualifies this support by admitting there is a need for carbon capture and storage to reduce the release of carbon dioxide to atmosphere, this technology is still a long way off from being put into production, and there is no sign of the necessary legislation that will make this compulsory. We doubt that energy companies will hang around for these obstacles to be resolved before joining the stampede to exploit these gas reserves.
We find it extremely worrying when the Chairman of one of the Government’s largest quangos is willing to give his support to fracking, and thereby continued contribution to climate change, and yet has said very little about the drought, which is being attributed by many as one of the symptoms of climate change. Gone are the days when the Environment Agency would speak up for the environment on behalf of “present and future generations”; it appears to have degenerated into another voice-box for Government policy and ambition.
Protect Kent believes there are still a lot of un-answered questions about shale gas exploitation, and perhaps some un-asked questions too. No-one appears to be ‘getting to grips’ with the many issues regarding this industry and answering the wider public’s concerns. The Government themselves are only dealing with the environmental risks in a piecemeal fashion. Perhaps the energy exploitation companies are fully aware of these risks and concerns, but are keeping quiet about them. Lord Smith has missed a prime opportunity to call for all issues to be made known, explored and resolved, and through this action to have public fears about shale gas exploitation dispelled.