British lawmakers on Wednesday voted to allow fracking under national parks and other protected areas.
"It is incredible that this decision comes just days after signing a ground-breaking climate change agreement in Paris," stated MEP Scott Cato.
The Guardian reports that
[m]inisters used a statutory instrument to push through the new rules, which means legislation can pass into law without a debate in the House of Commons. MPs voted in favour by 298 to 261.
As Liberal Democrat head Tim Farron described it, "Government used a parliamentary wheeze to pass the change with no parliamentary debate," while Shadow energy and climate secretary Lisa Nandy said the lack of debate was "frankly shabby."
The Independent adds:
The change will also allow the industrial process to be conducted below UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Stonehenge were shale gas ever found there. Regulations were also relaxed around drinking water aquifers.
The new regulations just require that the drilling begin from outside those protected areas.
Environmental campaigners issued scathing responses to the development, and said the government should instead be banning fracking.
Calling the decision "a complete U-turn on earlier promises," Rose Dickinson, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, "People will rightly be concerned that the government is not following through on its commitment to have strong regulation on fracking."
"The government’s own draft report found contaminated water poses risks to human health. Yet these new rules will put our drinking water and national parks at risk of fracking," she said.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the decision was "deeply disappointing."
"If the government is to match its rhetoric on the climate deal struck in Paris, then ministers must urgently rethink their entire approach to energy policy. To have any realistic chance of keeping global warming to well under 2 degrees we need to ban fracking in the UK."
"Not only does fracking fly in the face of the climate science but mounting evidence suggests it won’t lower bills," she said.
Farron said, "Government should hang its head in shame."