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Britain’s Fracking Commissioner Resigns And Accuses Govt Of Caving In To Green Zealots

David Rose, Mail on Sunday

The Government’s fracking ‘tsar’ today reveals her immediate resignation in The Mail on Sunday.

Natascha Engel’s decision to walk away from such a high-profile role is driven, she says, by her dismay that Ministers are jeopardising Britain’s energy security because they would rather appease noisy green campaigners than listen to scientists’ advice.

Natascha Engel, UK commissioner for fracking, at her home in South London
Natascha Engel, UK commissioner for fracking, at her home in South London

The result, she says in an exclusive interview, is that government policy is strangling the UK shale gas industry at birth – despite overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking, if properly regulated, is totally safe.

Killing off this industry, says Ms Engel, a former Labour MP, will cause higher, not lower, greenhouse-gas emissions, as we are forced to rely on increased imports of gas.

Ms Engel, 52, tells The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are facing a huge challenge from climate change, which can only be dealt with by getting serious about the energy we use. But using our own gas instead of imports will get our emissions down.’

Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is demanding zero emissions by 2025 – bringing Central London to almost a standstill for much of the past two weeks with its ‘direct action’ protests – also campaigns against fracking. This week the group will meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Ms Engel’s job – which has the official title Commissioner for Shale Gas – was to liaise between the Government, scientists, the industry and residents near potential fracking sites, and to give people factual information about the issue.

But last night, she revealed, she submitted an explosive resignation letter to Energy Secretary Greg Clark. It says she is stepping down because ‘a perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a Government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish’.

The Government, it adds, is ‘listening to a small but loud environmental movement that opposes in principle all extraction of fossil fuels. The campaign against fracking has been highly successful in raising the profile – and filling the coffers – of some campaign groups, but they do not represent local residents nor the wider population.’

The key reason for Ms Engel’s resignation is Mr Clark’s refusal to review the limit for earth tremors caused by fracking – 0.5 on the Richter scale. Tremors of this size, Ms Engel says, are so faint that detecting them requires highly sensitive equipment. The same rules do not apply to quarry blasting or construction piling, which can cause much bigger earth movements. They are also thousands of times weaker than the level 4 or 5 quakes geologists say are the smallest likely to damage buildings. […]

Ms Engel says she is also dismayed that groups such as XR, along with Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, had no concrete solutions other than to say we need political upheaval.

‘I cannot understand why politicians would rather listen to a teenager who tells children not go to school because they will soon be dead rather than looking at ways of reducing our emissions by taking gas out of the ground here.

‘We should be giving our children a positive and hopeful message: telling them to go to school, go to university, to become scientists and innovators who can find the answers to climate change.’

As fracking tsar, she says: ‘I was really excited to be part of a vision for the future, that would help restore Britain’s reputation as a creative, forward-looking country which took both emissions targets and prosperity seriously.

‘But for reasons I cannot fathom, the Government’s approach is not leadership, but paralysis.’

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