NIA GRIFFITH, Llanelli Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, spoke with us at The Herald about her opposition to the plans to begin fracking under national parks and protected areas this week. Both Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart were amongst the 298 Members of Parliament who voted in favour of allowing fracking under national parks and protected areas on Wednesday (Dec 16). Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to releases their natural gases. In Parliament, MPs voted to allow fracking for shale gas 1,200m below national parks and other protected sites.
Although fracking could give us access to more gas and oil, while decreasing our dependency on foreign oil, the fracking process is incredibly controversial. The main concerns are that the fracking process is highly water intensive, increasing the risk of drought, and that a huge amount of chemicals are used in the process. Up to 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins, which contaminate nearby groundwater. Hydraulic fracking does produce approximately 300,000 barrels of natural gas a day, but there are a number of environmental and health hazards involved in the process. The plans to allow fracking in protected areas reverse the promise, made in January under the Coalition Government, that fracking would be banned from such places. At the time, the then undersecretary of state for climate change, Amber Rudd, told Parliament it had been agreed that there would be “an outright ban on fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest.” Lisa Nandy, the current shadow energy and climate secretary, said that the government were using “a parliamentary back door to put through these weak regulations without a proper debate” and said that they were going against their word that there would be “tougher safeguards” on fracking until it was proven safe.
While 298 MPs voted in favour of the regulations, 261 MPS voted against them, including Nia Griffith and Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards. We at The Herald spoke to Ms Griffith about her vote against fracking under protected areas and she said: “I am strongly opposed to the government’s proposed weakening of fracking regulations and l voted against it yesterday (Dec 16). “The hypocrisy of David Cameron mouthing fine words at the Climate Change summit and then coming back to push the fracking regulations through, whilst slashing subsidies to renewables is appalling. “I look forward to decisions on fracking being devolved to the Welsh Government in the forthcoming Wales Bill, which should give us the opportunity to protect our National Parks and other areas of beauty here in Wales.” Explaining in more detail, she added: “Earlier this year, although we do not have the numbers to defeat the Government, Labour did manage to secure a series of amendments to the Infrastructure Bill that put in place a series of environmental safeguards which had to be met before shale gas drilling could go ahead. This included a ban of fracking in areas where drinking water is collected and protected sensitive areas such as our national parks or important wildlife sites.
“However, just weeks after agreeing to these amendments, the government did a complete U-turn in the Lords sneaking through a weakened version of Labour’s protections. In the Commons we tried to reinstate our more stringent safeguards. However the Tories used parliamentary procedures to ensure that the debate overran so MPs were denied the opportunity to reverse those changes. “On Tuesday, October 26 the government once again pushed through these weakened fracking regulations through a parliamentary backdoor (ie. a legislative committee) with no opportunity for the majority of MPs to debate them – just the vote yesterday (Dec 16). “Now these weakened fracking regulations have been passed, shale gas drilling will be allowed in drinking water protection zones, important wildlife sites, as well as under the ground below protected areas such as national parks, areas of outstanding national beauty and world heritage sites. “We as Labour MPs believe Britain must pursue a socially-just energy policy that considers the impact on the environment and climate change, as well the need for a secure, affordable energy. The Government must listen to people’s worries and not railroad through changes to the legislation which may have damaging and long lasting effects on our natural environment.” We contacted both Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart regarding their vote in favour of fracking under protected areas, but neither of them replied before the Herald went to print.
Station Road: Off-licence refused alcohol licence
AN OFF-LICENCE on Llanelli’s Station Road has been refused an alcohol licence by Carmarthenshire County Council after councillors decided it could add to the area’s crime and disorder problems.
The Licensing Committee’s decision has been upheld after the applicant, who runs the shop Kubus, appealed to the courts.
The applicant, Aram Mahmood, had asked the council for permission to sell alcohol at his shop between 9am and 9pm Monday to Sunday.
However councillors felt that granting the licence would contravene the authority’s Cumulative Impact Policy, which creates a presumption against the granting of premises licences in the Station Road area, due to anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled crime issues.
A Dyfed Powys Police representative said Station Road is still identified as a crime and disorder hot spot, and a Drinking in Public Places Order (DPPO) is in place.
During April 2017 and March 2018, 164 anti-social behaviour incidents were recorded in Station Road, over a quarter having occurred within licensed premises.
A fifth of all related crime and 13 per cent of all alcohol related anti-social behavior incidents recorded in Llanelli town occurred in Station Road.
Over 40 alcohol related violent crimes were also recorded there during the same period.
Although there are now fewer premises selling alcohol in Station Road, statistics show there is still a high level of alcohol related crime and disorder in the area.
The applicant told the committee that his main customers were families wishing to buy Polish and European foods and products.
He told councillors he had ordered a CCTV system and assured them that the management of alcohol would be well controlled by staff, though believed that his customers would not cause problems.
The licensing committee’s decision was upheld following the applicant’s appeal to Llanelli Magistrates Court.
Justices found that there was no evidence of exceptional reasons to justify departing from the Cumulative Impact Policy and were satisfied with the committee’s decision.
Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman
THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.
Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.
Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.
Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.
“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.
Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.
The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.
Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.
Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.
He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.
He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.
A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.
A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.
He is married with two children and three grandchildren.
‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’
LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.
Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.
During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.
Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”
“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”
Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.
Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”
Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.
“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”
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