From: Business insider
Downing Street has confirmed Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson is to replace Caroline Spelman as Environment Secretary, fuelling concerns amongst green groups about the future direction of the government’s environment policy.
Paterson will take over from Spelman, who looks set to leave the cabinet after a series of high profile U-turns at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Paterson is widely seen as being on the right of the Conservative Party and green groups were quick to highlight his previous hostility to environmental campaigns.
Most notably, the influential ConservativeHome website reported back in May that Paterson made an intervention in cabinet demanding an end to all energy subsidies, an immediate fast-tracking of shale gas projects, and an urgent review of airport policy with a view to increasing capacity.
His stance on shale gas is particularly significant as Defra is responsible for the Environment Agency, which has been tasked with regulating and policing shale gas projects. It also provides Chancellor George Osborne with another ally in an influential position as he prepares to escalate his battle with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to shift the UK’s energy policy landscape in favour of gas.
As MP for North Shropshire he has also campaigned against National Grid’s plans for pylons that would run through his constituency connecting proposed wind farms in mid-Wales to the midlands, while during his time as Shadow Environment Secretary he supported controversial plans for a badger culling programme.
Owen Pattersons brother in law is Matt Ridley, former chairman of Northen Rock, has expressed strong criticism of the science of climate change and its conclusions. Though Patterson himself is listed on the Public Whip as having voted in favour of policies to stop climate change 77% of the time. It seems likely he will support the expansion of Heathrow but his stance on other environmental issues seems less clear.