Shale Gas and fracking has risen to prominence in recent weeks. It is a subject which garners strong feelings and Maidstone and The Weald is no exception.
Concerns include detriment to our beautiful landscape, a possible rise in greenhouse gas emissions, potential water-contamination, and worries about earth tremours. Whilst I am unaware of any applications to drill that will directly affect this constituency, two exploratory sites have now been given the go-ahead in Kent and it is right that the debate is given due consideration.
Fracking could be a very positive development for our country. It has the potential to drive down our ever increasing energy bills, as it has in the U.S.A. Home-sourced energy supplies also reduce our reliance on imports, improving our balance of payments and providing much needed energy security in an unstable world.
Local communities will also stand to benefit. As I understand it companies involved in the process of drilling exploratory wells will pay £100,000 to every community situated near these wells. Thereafter, one percent of any future revenue will also go to those who live in the immediate vicinity. It is money that could be used for a variety of purposes, such as reducing council tax or investment in local schools.
And fracking will create jobs locally and nationally, both for those companies directly involved, and from an extended supply chain, providing a further boost to our recovering economy.
Responsibility for planning applications for onshore oil and gas activities, including for the exploration of shale gas, will be solely with local authorities. Fracking is not something that will be imposed by central government and it is right that local decision makers are involved in the process.
At this early stage in the development of the UK fracking industry, I believe that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. A careful eye must be maintained by the regulator however, and I keep an open mind on the subject as exploration and extraction progresses.
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