An Englishman’s home is his castle – an old saying goes, but this may change with a new piece of legislation proposed by the Government that will allow shale gas companies to drill horizontal wells under private property.
The Government has started a 12-week consultation on new legislation that will bypass the law of trespass for underground work that is 300 metres or more below the surface. The current law states that gas companies can lay pipelines under private land without the landowner’s permission, but horizontal drilling under private properties constitutes trespassing. The Government is concerned that the trespassing law will be used by landowners to block the progress of shale exploration in the UK and make the country less competitive in comparison with other European shale destinations.
The new law would be very welcome by UK shale gas exploration companies. Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said in an interview earlier this month that he doesn’t believe that compensating the landowners for horizontal drilling is justified, saying: “I don’t think there’s any disturbance. If someone flies two miles above your house, do you get compensation?”
On the other hand, Lawrence Carter, UK energy campaigner for Greenpeace, argued that “Stripping away people’s property rights while trying to kick off a Klondike-style shale oil rush in the home counties is a highly toxic policy mix,”
“The Tories have just taken a bruising at the local elections – fracking will only make things worse for Tory MPs in the party’s heartlands at next year’s vote. Ministers are sticking two fingers up at the three-quarters of Britain who are against giving frackers a free rein to drill under people’s homes. And they’re also ignoring UN scientists who have warned we must keep two-thirds of known fossil fuels in the ground if we are to head off catastrophic climate change.”
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