New environment secretary backed fracking

Theresa Villiers backed fracking, but calls for action on climate change and spoke out against Heathrow expansion.

We should not make a serious problem even worse by trying to expand Heathrow. 

Theresa Villiers - who supports a no deal Brexit and has voted against a ban on fracking exploration - has been appointed secretary of state for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Boris Johnson during his first day as prime minister.

The Conservative MP takes over from Michael Gove who had spent 18 months at DEFRA and surprised some environmental campaigners by supporting more progressive policies, from banning plastic straws to meeting campaigners calling for a ban on trophy hunting

The Chipping Barnet MP is, it seems, being rewarded for supporting Johnson's argument in favour of a 'no deal' Brexit. However, crashing out of the European Union could mean the UK losing much of its environmental protections and regulation.


The UK would also be vulnerable to trade deals - including with the US - that would result in the import of food produced to lower standards such as hormone treated meat and chlorinated chicken, campaigners have argued. 

The new environment secretary does not have a particularly high profile - beyond confessing on Question Time that she had tried to smoke cannabis at university on more than one occasion. She has previously served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a minister in the Department for Transport. 

In her time as an MP she has voted against a ban on shale gas exportation and has appeared to downplay the concerns about fracking in a statement on her website, which stated: "We need to strike the right balance between the legitimate concerns of landowners, and the benefits to society as a whole of permitting development."

According to They Work for You: "Theresa Villiers voted not to ban the exploitation of unconventional petroleum for at least 18 months and not to require a review of the impact of such exploitation on climate change, the environment, the economy, and health and safety be carried out and published."


Further, she tied against a bill in 2013 setting a target for the amount of greenhouse gas produced by the UK - significant because she now holds some of the responsibility for ensuring the government meets the 2030 net zero target emissions. It is also reported that Villiers voted against a 2012 bill requiring the Green Investment Bank to support lower carbon emission targets. 

However, she said in a statement on Facebook this year: "Action on climate change is vital. Significant progress has been made, with a third of our electricity now generated by clean renewable power sources. We are also the first major developed economy to make a commitment that we will end the use of unmitigated coal in electricity generation."

She has also made public statements against the expansion of Heathrow Airport - although not going quite as far as Johnson in promising to lye down in front of the bulldozers to stop any development. She said in 2016: "We should not make a serious problem even worse by trying to expand Heathrow."

Villiers has argued recently that "excessive, long-distance transport of live animals for slaughter can cause great suffering". This has given some campaigners hope that she will be open to discussions about animal welfare. She has voted for the cull on badgers. She has also voted against bans on smoking.  

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Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.

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