The Scottish Government has said it will challenge Westminster over its removal of homeowner rights regarding the decision to frack beneath their homes.
The announcement comes almost immediately after the recent UK government ruling, which says homeowners living above prime fracking spots will not have a say about whether fracking goes ahead there.
The new proposals from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) mean that companies would be able to drill beneath people’s homes that happened to be above prime oil or gas reserves, without gaining right of access first.
The Scottish Government has strongly opposed the idea and plans to appeal to Westminster over its latest decision on the matter. It claims that the welfare and rights of Scottish homeowners should remain the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.
Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing has said:
Whatever your view on the issue of unconventional oil and gas – and it is clear that there are both opportunities and concerns – there is only one way that the people of Scotland can determine the approach in Scotland – including beneath their homes and land.
That is to take the power to deal with this issue away from Westminster, and that can only be done with the powers of independence.”
Among the strengthening cases for Scotland’s independence, the proposals are also being opposed on humanist and environmental grounds.
Campaign group Greenpeace has said it may also launch legal action against the plans, on the basis that the consultation documents contained “incomplete and misleading information” on the matter. It is calling for the consultation to be rerun.
UK energy campaigner of Greenpeace Louise Hutchins said:
This consultation has failed the basic requirement of being straightforward and transparent with the public. If ministers don’t discard this bungled process and start a fairer one, they’ll lay themselves open to potential legal challenges.”
Ms. Hutchins added that the charity is keeping all of its options open to challenge “this reckless dash to frack”, claiming that the situation is too important an issue to let the government “get away with a dismissive attitude”.
Meanwhile, DECC argued that its proposals:
…would allow shale development to go ahead while offering a fair deal for communities and protecting the environment.”
It pointed out that many people are already complacent with other industries accessing the land beneath people’s homes for things like laying water pipes and tunnels. These lie much closer to the surface than shale and oil gas operations, it said, which involve wells drilled a mile down.
Nevertheless, Fergus Ewing is said to be writing to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to formally object to the proposals.