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Tory MPs angrily challenge Rees-Mogg’s fracking revival plan

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theguardian.com

Ministers face a furious backlash from Conservative MPs after overturning a manifesto pledge to pause fracking until it is proved safe, and then indicating drilling could be imposed without local support.Outlining a return to shale gas extraction in England after three years, Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed worries about earthquakes caused by the practice as “hysteria”, claiming this was often down to a lack of scientific understanding.But speaking in the Commons, the business and energy secretary was repeatedly challenged by Tory MPs, who asked how local support for fracking would be assessed and sought reassurance on Liz Truss’s pledge that this was needed.Rees-Mogg refused to be drawn, saying only that fracking firms would be urged to financially compensate people affected by shale gas drilling, a practice he said was “in the national interest”.The Guardian has also learned that Rees-Mogg’s department could designate fracking sites as nationally significant infrastructure projects(NSIPs), allowing them to bypass normal planning requirements.Such a designation, which a government source confirmed is being considered, is normally used for projects like roads and power generation schemes.

Applying it to fracking sites would infuriate many Tory MPs.Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde in Lancashire, where fracking took place before ministers halted the practice in 2019, told the Guardian that using the NSIP system would explicitly breach Truss’s promise during her Tory leadership campaign that drilling would only happen with local approval.“If BEIS [the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] do this, they do so in the face of clear commitments made by the prime minister – there is no ifs or buts, it is

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