At a meeting of full Council, last week Councillor Richard Lewis put forward strong objections to the government’s process to award exploration licenses for fracking in large areas of South and East Leeds.
Following this impassioned call, supported by Councillor Karen Renshaw (Labour, Ardsley and Robin Hood) and David Nagle (Labour, Rothwell), Council voted to request central government withdraws the current exploration licenses until concerns about environment and health have been comprehensively addressed.
Council also voted to demand central government reverses changes that take powers away from local decision makers and provide the conditions for British companies working on renewable energy to thrive.
Councillor Richard Lewis, (Labour, Executive Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning) was emphatic:
“It’s no surprise that we have significant reservations about fracking near to population centres – which is practically anywhere in the UK. These concerns include the impact on water supplies, air pollution and seismic activity – all of which have to be understood before we should be considering fracking.
“Instead, we should be looking for alternative approaches -including renewable energy – in order to meet our energy needs. We are trying to achieve this in Leeds, but central government also has a clear part to play in achieving this, rather than promoting fracking.”
There are serious concerns about the safety of workers in the fracking industry, as Councillor Karen Renshaw (Labour, Ardsley and Robin Hood) pointed out:
“Many of our villages have been shaped and altered by mining. We have a proud history of working hard to keep the lights on; but we also know what it is like to be a community that revolves around an economic activity that can be dangerous to workers and affect the local environment.
“Statistics from the TUC show that fracking workers in the United States are more than seven times more likely to die on the job than other types of workers. What we need are cleaner, safer businesses for our residents to work in – fracking simply does not provide this.”
In the context of yesterday’s decision to close the last coal fired power stations and dash for gas – rather than renewables – the Labour Council’s actions on fracking in the Leeds district look doubly welcome. It is clear that the Tories have back pedaled on renewables, where Britain was leading the way, and are strongly committed to increasing gas use.
Alex Sobel, Support Executive Member for Climate Change
Chair of Leeds North West Labour Party, summed up the situation and its local impact:
‘The Government have stripped support for reducing energy use through Energy Company Obligation, which provided external wall insulation for hundreds of houses in Ireland Wood and Tinshill. They are now planning to reduce the Feed In Tariff which helped a huge growth in solar panels including 1000 on council homes here in Leeds. Instead they are grasping for more carbon-emitting fossil fuels in shale gas. This Government are proving themselves to be the enemies of the planet and the friends of Frackers, so I am delighted Leeds has passed this unequivocal motion in opposition to fracking.’