'The Government’s fracking ‘tsar’ today reveals her immediate resignation in The Mail on Sunday.
Natascha Engel’s decision to walk away from such a high-profile role is driven, she says, by her dismay that Ministers are jeopardising Britain’s energy security because they would rather appease noisy green campaigners than listen to scientists’ advice.
The result, she says in an exclusive interview, is that government policy is strangling the UK shale gas industry at birth – despite overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking, if properly regulated, is totally safe.
Killing off this industry, says Ms Engel, a former Labour MP, will cause higher, not lower, greenhouse-gas emissions, as we are forced to rely on increased imports of gas.
Ms Engel, 52, tells The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are facing a huge challenge from climate change, which can only be dealt with by getting serious about the energy we use. But using our own gas instead of imports will get our emissions down.’
Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is demanding zero emissions by 2025 – bringing Central London to almost a standstill for much of the past two weeks with its ‘direct action’ protests – also campaigns against fracking. This week the group will meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Ms Engel’s job – which has the official title Commissioner for Shale Gas – was to liaise between the Government, scientists, the industry and residents near potential fracking sites, and to give people factual information about the issue.
But last night, she revealed, she submitted an explosive resignation letter to Energy Secretary Greg Clark. It says she is stepping down because ‘a perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a Government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish’.
The Government, it adds, is ‘listening to a small but loud environmental movement that opposes in principle all extraction of fossil fuels. The campaign against fracking has been highly successful in raising the profile – and filling the coffers – of some campaign groups, but they do not represent local residents nor the wider population.’
The key reason for Ms Engel’s resignation is Mr Clark’s refusal to review the limit for earth tremors caused by fracking – 0.5 on the Richter scale. Tremors of this size, Ms Engel says, are so faint that detecting them requires highly sensitive equipment. The same rules do not apply to quarry blasting or construction piling, which can cause much bigger earth movements. They are also thousands of times weaker than the level 4 or 5 quakes geologists say are the smallest likely to damage buildings.'
Read more: Britain's fracking tsar Natascha Engel reveals her resignation in The Mail On Sunday as she accuses ministers of putting our energy security in peril by caving in to green zealots
Natascha Engel - The 'unbiased' Fracking Tsar that Never Was
'In the 2015 general election, Engel's majority of 1,883 was the 17th-smallest of Labour's 232 seats by percentage. She had been expected to lose but she retained her seat.
Engel supported continued membership of the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
In explanation of her eventual defeat in the 2017 general election, Engel pointed to problems in Labour gaining votes in its post-industrial heartlands and the absence of a significant student vote in the constituency, comparing the situation with her native Canterbury where Labour had gained the seat in the election for the first time.
Many in North East Derbyshire were of the opinion that her stance on fracking was the root cause of her defeat, having published a letter in support of fracking (against the national Party policy) immediately after the close of nominations for the Labour candidacy. North East Derbyshire has a large anti-fracking movement due to proposed developments by the chemicals company Ineos, and Engel's nomination had been signed by some anti-fracking activists.
After losing her seat in the election it was announced that Engel had taken a job as a consultant to Ineos. The North East Derbyshire Labour Party have strongly condemned her actions and are considering their options in relation to her status within the party, though she was replaced as the Labour candidate for the area by anti-fracking Sheffield councilor Christine Peace.
On 5 October 2018 the Conservative government announced Engel as the new commissioner for shale gas. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy she "will be a direct communication link between local communities, the shale gas industry and the industry regulators."