Media Centre

Statement from Church of England on fracking

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."

Notes
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.

Mineral Rights
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 fact.

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