Correspondence between a Sussex teacher and headteacher for over 30 years, and Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings

Subject: Please don't vote for the new fracking law
Dear Ms Amber Rudd MP,

Would you support one law for fracking companies and another law for constituents like me?  I’d like to know which way you plan to vote on the government's proposals to allow fracking companies to drill under homes without permission? I'm against these plans.

Furthermore, modern technologically proficient societies should be pioneering ways to reduce the dependency and use of fossil fuels.  The environmental and irreversible damage their increasing use produces is beyond argument.  This government, of which you are a member, pledged itself to be the "greenest" we have known.  That really does seem like the empty promise it was.
Yours sincerely,
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Dear Mr Wyatt,

Thank you for contacting me about fracking.

Shale gas and oil are promising new potential energy resources which could reduce our reliance on imported energy sources and help with keeping energy costs low.  It could create thousands of jobs, bring in billions in tax revenues and secure our energy supply for the future.  However, of course, fracking operations should be safe and must not be at the expense of local communities or the environment.

As you may know, the Government has launched a consultation to simplify the process for shale gas underground drilling access.  The proposals comprise access to underground land but only below 300m (nearly 1000ft), a voluntary payment from industry, and a voluntary public notification for access.  However, any hydraulic fracturing would only occur at far greater depths of 1.5 kilometres (around 5000ft) or more.

The current procedures for shale gas exploration are costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.  The new proposals would allow companies to explore the potential of shale gas sites while offering a community payment in return for underground access at depths so deep that the Energy Department states they will have no negative impact on landowners.

I believe we need to strike the right balance between the legitimate concerns of landowners, and the benefits to the community and nation at large of permitting development.
Many other industries already access underground land in order to lay cables and build infrastructure such as water pipes and tunnels.  These are much closer to the surface than the access concerned here. For example the deepest Tube station is around 32m below ground.

I must stress that the solution outlined in the consultation does not change any other aspect of the existing regulatory system, such as procedures for surface access, planning, environmental permits or safety controls.  In particular, the proposals do not weaken existing requirements for public consultation prior to the granting of planning permission or environmental permits for developments.  Safety is the top priority.  The UK has over 50 years of experience in regulating the onshore oil and gas industry and we have a strong regulatory regime for shale gas extraction.

I recognise the strong feelings on both sides of the argument and I support the undertaking of a public consultation so everyone can make their views known.  It runs until 15 August and more details can be found online here: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/underground-drilling-access

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Yours sincerely,
Amber Rudd
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Once again you reply to my letters and fail to address the crucial points.

I am fully aware of the toxic and un-remediable consequences of 'fracking.' Your endeavours to persuade me that it will all happen far away and deep underground are irrelevant and to try to equate this with the digging of tunnels and the laying of pipes is at the very least disingenuous.  Short term sweeteners to make the process more palatable and to circumvent the current regulations that "are costly, time consuming and disproportionate" do not alter the facts.  They merely attempt to divert attention from the crucially important issues.

The regulations are there to protect our environment and are the minimum that any responsible Government should be upholding if it genuinely cares about the long term well being of us all.  We should not be recklessly engaging in a highly destructive dash for gas and oil, which, even if successful, will not reduce prices for consumers anyway because we are locked into pan global agreements on prices for the sale and purchase of energy.

Furthermore you have very deliberately NOT addressed the matter of David Cameron's pledge to make his Government "The greenest on record" I remember the green tree logo of the 2010 election campaign ….vote blue go green.

If those words have any meaning at all this Government should be pioneering the development of ways to make energy use more and more efficient and consumption less.  Instead we see it falling in behind the multi national energy controlling companies who have little regard for the destructiveness and environmental degradation that is often left once they have taken their profits and moved on to pastures green and new.

And you wonder why so many people distrust politicians?