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UK Government 'Fast-Tracking' Shale Development

The UK government Thursday announced plans to "fast-track" applications to develop shale natural gas resources while ensuring that locals "have a strong say over the development of shale exploration in their area." The move comes after a local government recently scotched test well plans of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd.

The measures include identifying local councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16-week statutory time frame, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary," said the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change department for communities and local government.

"As a One Nation Government, we are backing the safe development of shale gas because it's good for jobs, giving hardworking people and their families more financial security, good for our energy security and part of our plan to de-carbonize the economy," said Amber Rudd, secretary for energy and climate change. "We need more secure, homegrown energy supplies -- and shale gas must play a part in that.

"To ensure we get this industry up and running we can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end. Oversight by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency of shale developments makes our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear. We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.”

Marketed natural gas production in the United Kingdom has fallen dramatically in recent years, declining at an annualized trend-line rate of 8.3% between 2000 and 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data and NGI’s Shale Daily calculations. That has pushed the UK from being a region that had more than enough gas to serve its own needs through 2004 to one that by 2013 had a supply deficit of nearly 1.4 Tcf.

In June, the future of shale development in the United Kingdom suffered a serious setback after a local government panel in northwest England denied Cuadrilla Resources permission to drill up to eight test wells at two separate locations in the Borough of Fylde (see Shale DailyJuly 6).

The measures mean that ministers would consider calling in any application for shale exploration, and would recover appeals on a case-by-case basis. Local communities would remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale application -- whether decided by councils or government, the government said. "And demanding planning rules to ensure shale development happens only at appropriate sites remain unchanged."

The government said it also believes that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the financial returns they generate, and would be presenting proposals later in the year on the design of a new sovereign wealth fund.

"People's safety and the environment will remain paramount, and communities will always be involved in planning applications, but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions," said Greg Clark, communities secretary. "By fast-tracking any appropriate applications, today's changes will tackle potential holdups in the system."

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