Are Towns In England Being Bribed To Accept Fracking?

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

Gillie Waddington of Enfield, N.Y., raises a fist during rally against hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y., on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

Speaking in front of a fracking facility in Lincolnshire, England, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced new financial incentives for communities that embrace unconventional natural gas extraction.

Under the new rules, local councils will be allowed to keep 100 percent of the taxes levied on fracking projects in their area instead of the 50 percent previously allowed. That could mean as much as £1.7 million for local coffers for a typical 12-well site. Communities would also receive an additional £100,000 when a test well is fracked and would earn one percent of the company’s revenues over the lifetime of the wells.

“Shale is important for our country. It could bring 74,000 jobs, over 3 billion pounds of investment, give us cheaper energy for the future and increase our energy security,” said Cameron. “I want us to get on board this change that is doing so much good and bringing so much benefit to North America. I want us to benefit from it here as well.”

The news comes as the French energy giant Total announced that it will spend about $50 million exploring for gas in the East Midlands of England. The move makes Total the first major oil company to invest in England’s new controversial energy sector.

“This move raises potentially serious concerns about conflicts of interest, if councils that benefit from this money are also the ones who decide on planning applications from fracking firms in the first place,” Jane Thomas of Friends of the Earth told the Guardian.

On Sunday, hundreds of anti-fracking protesters gathered again at a site in Barton Moss in Greater Manchester. Planning permission has been granted to energy company IGas to drill a test well for fracking at the site. Demonstrations have been held at the site since November. Last week two women were arrested at the site after they super-glued themselves inside their car.

In mid-December it was announced that two-thirds of the U.K.’s land will be available for fracking firms to license. The U.K. government hopes to deliver 25 percent of the country’s natural gas needs from fracking.