Government appoints new Shale Gas Commissioner

On the 5th October 2018 the Government announced the appointment of a Commissioner for Shale Gas, and look who it is! None other than Natascha Engel, our former Labour MP!

When the job was advertised, the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy described the post as “an independent appointment”. As part of the Job Description, the Commissioner will “Ensure industry are engaging with local communities to effectively highlight the benefits of shale gas, whilst clearly acknowledging the concerns of local residents”.

Let’s examine this statement.

to effectively highlight the benefits of shale gas …” in other words to tell local communities that they’re all wrong, there’s nothing to worry about and it’s all going to be fine. The choice of the words “to effectively highlight” says it all.

clearly acknowledging the concerns of local residents”. Is that all? Just “acknowledge” that we have concerns? Our concerns are genuine and are now backed by science and research. More and more reports are coming out – some of them from our own Government agencies – saying that fracking is unsafe, that it cannot be carried out safely, and that it is likely to be commercially unviable; and backing our calls for a total ban on fracking on the grounds of environmental damage, water and air contamination, the dangers to public health, seismic activity, and the inevitable increasing of climate change and global warming caused by further perpetuation of fossil fuel usage.

Furthermore, this research and its ensuing reports is showing that, contrary to the Government’s assertions, shale gas is not a necessary requirement for the UK’s future energy needs, nor for our energy security. We don’t need shale gas to “keep the lights on”. So our concerns are backed by a growing body of well-researched scientific reports from across the academic and Governmental fields. To merely “acknowledge” these concerns is totally reckless and a dereliction of public duty by this Government. Our concerns need to be acted upon, not just “acknowledged”. But the Government is hell-bent on fracking regardless.

In fact, everything the Government says about the so-called “benefits” of fracking now has no creditable reportage to support it. It’s all complete speculation. And it’s now Natascha’s job to sell this to the country.

And as for an “independent appointment”?

Independent? She’s hardly that!

In the run-up to the 2017 General Election, whilst she was still MP for North East Derbyshire, Ms Engel publicly declared her support for shale gas extraction by fracking. She even published an open letter (at her own expense) which was enclosed in every copy of the magazine “Dronfield Eye” (delivered free to every household in the Coal Aston and Dronfield vicinity) explaining why she was in favour of fracking in the area: one reason she gave was that it might result in an improved bus route!

After she lost the election (and many people locally believe she lost her seat as a direct result of supporting fracking), she was employed by fracking company INEOS to author a booklet on their behalf singing the praises of fracking (and no doubt of INEOS themselves) which to date has never seen the light of day.

This is how the appointment as Commissioner was announced:

“The government understands the development of shale gas exploration and production sites is an issue which directly affects local communities and recognises the need to provide those communities with impartial, fact-based information.

“Taking up her post this week, Natascha Engel will be a direct communication link between local communities, the shale gas industry and the industry regulators. The commissioner will be a contact point for residents, to listen to their concerns, refer them to relevant and factual research and help improve communication with regulators and industry.”

The job was advertised as being a two-year appointment requiring “up to” eight days of work a month. This is hardly a firm commitment from the Government for effective communication.

Ms Engel said:

“If extracted safely, shale gas has the potential to be a new, domestic source of energy for the UK. But there is a need for clear, impartial information to be provided to all parties and in particular those local communities most affected by shale gas development.

“As the Commissioner for Shale Gas, I look forward to working closely with communities, regulators and industry to ensure facts are easily accessible as the process of shale exploration continues to develop.”

In light of her continued support for fracking and her admission of having worked for INEOS, Ms Engel is hardly in a position to give “clear, impartial information”. Indeed, everything she said above shows her absolute commitment to fracking and her willingness to trot out the same old Government line. It is clear that she is entirely embedded with the development of the fracking industry in England.

Claire Perry, Minister for Energy & Clean Growth (yes, really!) said:

“It’s important we get the facts straight on shale gas and that communities can access the best scientific information when engaging with the developers and regulators.

“This new role will provide a single point of contact for local residents to get the information they need and have their questions answered.

“As the UK makes progress towards shale gas production, proving a streamlined way for developers to engage with our robust regulators will increase efficiency and help to continually improve our already world-leading regulations in this area.”

In other words, it’s not really about listening to our worries and concerns, and communicating them to Government or even to the oil and gas industry; it’s all about promoting their pro-fracking agenda. When they talk about local residents having their questions answered, what they really mean is ignoring our concerns and dismissing our arguments.

You can read the announcement in full here, where you can see all the above quotes in context.

On Sunday 21st October 2018, the BBC’s TV programme “Sunday Politics” included a feature debating this appointment, to which Natascha Engel herself contributed. It includes clips of local CADAF and EAF members and even Jeremy Corbyn on his recent visit to Marsh Lane. You can see the 11 minute 48 second feature in full here, with apologies for the rather wayward sound synchronisation:



Natascha 2
Natascha Engel taking her duties seriously in her former post as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

On 27 October 2018, Ms Engel was interviewed for an article published on the Mail Online website. You can read our assessment of her performance by clicking here

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