16 August 2013
The Chair of the Church of England's group on Mission and Public
Affairs Philip Fletcher has today (16th August 2013) issued the
following statement placing recent media reports in context:
"The Church of England has no official policy either for or
against hydraulic fracturing (known as 'fracking'). However there
is a danger of viewing fracking through a single issue lens and
ignoring the wider considerations.
"There are a number of balancing considerations which need to be
taken into account when coming to a view. Fuel poverty is an
increasingly urgent issue for many in society - the impact on
energy bills is felt most by the least well off. Blanket opposition
to further exploration for new sources of fuel fails to take into
account those who suffer most when resources are scarce.
"I would want to emphasise along with all those that care for
the environment the importance of proper controls in relation to
any form of fracking - we do not want cowboys and cavaliers digging
up the land in a free for all exploitation. However as the Royal
Academy of Engineering concluded recently in a review on fracking,
this is a procedure which "can be managed effectively in the UK as
long as operational best practices are implemented and robustly
enforced through regulation".
"There are issues and risks. The answer to those is to treat
them seriously and to minimise them. There are examples of how this
can be done in other areas. The oil well operating at Furzey
Island, adjacent to Brownsea Island, demonstrates that oil
production in a deeply sensitive area can continue for decades
without endangering the environment.
"Clearly all carbon based fuels contribute to global warming and
are less than ideal in terms of climate change. However, it should
also be recognised that gas is less damaging than coal and to
preclude properly managed technical development is to risk denying
ourselves more important, less polluting and less costly options
than the energy sources on which we currently rely.
"Fuel poverty, the creation of jobs, energy self-sufficiency and
the development of technology that may reduce the impact of more
polluting fuels are just some of the factors which need to be taken
into account in any debate alongside the concern we all have about
the impact of fossil fuels upon climate change."
This follows two other church related statements on
fracking which are in the public domain.
The first was from the Diocese of Blackburn, the other is from the Bishop of Chichester
As with much of wider society the Church will continue debating
the issue around fracking, seeking to balance theological,
economic, environmental and societal issues.
Whilst individuals, communities and groups, both inside the
church and in wider society may emphasise particular approaches or
concerns there is as yet no official policy on fracking from the
Church of England, with discussion expected to continue in various
forms including the Ethical investment Advisory Group of the Church
commissioners and the Mission and Public Affairs Group.
The Land Registration Act 2002 "LRA 2002"
introduced far reaching changes to English property law.
One of the effects of these changes for the Church Commissioners
was that certain historical rights and interests in mines and
minerals owned in most cases for many years and in some cases for
centuries might have been lost if not registered or otherwise
protected within a strict timeframe.
Since 2004 the Church Commissioners have been working to
register their mineral interests in line with the Government's Land
Registry requirements, as any responsible landowner is doing before
the end of the October 2013deadline. This does not create any new
interests or rights and is confined to properly registering what
the Commissioners have in most cases owned for many years, and in
some cases for centuries.
Consequently this is simply an exercise to protect existing
rights and interests made vulnerable by the change in the law.
There are no particular plans to mine under any property. The focus
is registration and protection.
There is absolutely no link with fracking.
Home owners have been receiving notices from the Land registry
since 2008 but the deadline for registration expires in October
2013 and so an increased number of these notices have been sent
over the past months. The conflation of these letters with the
issue of fracking has been led by the media rather than by
The registration programme does not create any new rights or
interests. This is therefore all about properly registering and
protecting existing interests so that all parties can see and
understand who owns what. These interests do not include ownership
of coal or petroleum, both of which were nationalised, nor gold and
silver, which belong to the Crown.
Further detail can be found on the Church of England website