Mark Howard
Posted on 27 Oct 2014

Fracking update - the draft legislation

The Government recently introduced draft legislation that could make gas exploration much easier for companies who want to use fracking technologies.

The Government has (on 14 October) added draft clauses 32 to 37 into the Infrastructure Bill 2014-15 to introduce an underground access regime for gas, oil and geothermal energy.  The inclusion of gas in these provisions is particularly aimed at shale gas obtained through fracking, and so, this has raised some considerable public interest.

The draft clauses that have been introduced remove the need for operators to negotiate access rights with landowners under whose land they are seeking to explore.  Without the provisions it would be necessary to negotiate access rights with all owners under whose land the operator wanted to explore.  Over any significant distance, this could lead to large numbers of land owners having to be individually dealt with − which in practice would be extremely difficult and may render a project unviable.

These changes have been made following the September publication of the Government’s response to the consultation that it conducted in May.  DECC published the Government response to the consultation and confirmed that the Government would proceed with its key proposals:

  • to legislate to introduce a right of underground access for companies extracting petroleum (including using fracking) or deep geothermal energy in land at least 300 metres below the surface; and
  • that operators who need to rely on the underground access regime will:
  • comply with a voluntary notification system for the local community; and
  • make a voluntary payment to the local community in return for the right of access.

The Government will also introduce a power to enable it to make regulations to enforce notification requirements and payment if the voluntary scheme is not honoured.

It is important to note that the underground access regime does not remove the need for other planning and environmental permissions that will be required to develop shale gas.  The underground access rights are just one of the pieces of the regulatory jigsaw that will need to be completed before the exploration and fracking can begin − but at least this particular piece of the jigsaw now looks like being a corner!


Fracking- new legislation will solve the underground access problem

Fracking- new legislation will solve the underground access problem