Benny Peiser, writing at City AM, reckons the appointment of Paterson clears the way for shale gas exploitation to begin in earnest:
...the appointment of Owen Paterson as the UK’s new environment secretary is fuelling concerns among environmental campaigners. They fear that the government’s green agenda is being scaled back in order to refocus on economic recovery.
Yesterday, environmental journalists warned that the reshuffle has effectively terminated “the greenest government ever.” Some have argued that Paterson’s appointment marks a sharp turn from the green policies that had previously found a home in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
In the past, Paterson has proposed an end to all energy subsidies and a speedy development of domestic shale gas reserves. His endorsement of shale exploration is particularly pertinent, since DEFRA is responsible for the Environment Agency, which is in charge of regulating and policing shale gas ventures.
Most crucially, the government intends to publish a new Economy Bill in the next few days, detailing a major deregulation of the planning system. Paterson will be responsible for the deregulation of environmental assessments, allowing fast-tracked developments.
Paterson may well be able to ensure that regulation does not stand in the way of the shale revolution. But whether that is sufficient for the revolution to go ahead remains unclear. There are still the deep greens at DECC to contend with.