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New fracking regulations backed by MPs

Words: Laura Edgar
Fracking / iStock_000022131270

MPs have voted by 298 to 261 to allow fracking under national parks.

The result means that fracking will be allowed to take place below national parks in England at a depth of 1,200 metres. Drilling will take place outside the protected areas.

The vote follows the release of the Task Force on Shale Gas’s final report on Tuesday, 15 December, which concluded that shale gas can be produced safely in the UK as long as the “strictest environmental standards” are in place. 

The regulations were originally laid out in July this year on the government website while a consultation was launched in November.

The vote means fracking can be carried out 1,200 metres below national parks, AONB sites, world heritage sites, the Broads and certain groundwater areas.

Tabled on Tuesday night (15 December), the measures were voted on in a process known as deferred division, meaning there was no full Commons debate ahead of it.

“It is an utter travesty that the government one week sign a landmark agreement to tackle climate change and then allow fracking in national parks and SSSIs.” Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (@timfarron) said on Twitter

Labour’s shadow energy and climate change team (@labourenergy) said on Twitter that the “government has abandoned promises for tougher safeguards to protect drinking water sources, SSSIs and our national parks”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, said shale gas will improve the country's long-term energy and economic security – supporting growth and creating over 60,000 jobs, ensuring more financial security for working people and their families.

"The UK has one of the best track records in the world for protecting our environment while developing our industries. This is a great step forward – these regulations will help get this vital industry moving while protecting our environment and people,” the spokesperson said.

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “What we have seen today is the government breaking its promise and forcing through regulations which will allow fracking underneath some of the most fragile and treasured landscapes in Britain. These areas have been protected for a reason: stunning areas like the Peak District, the North York Moors and the South Downs.

“The UK government has just participated in a historic climate agreement in Paris, but if it’s to hold up its end of the bargain it has to rethink its support for fracking and back safe, cheap, clean energy instead.”

Reaction to the result can be found here.

Image credit | iStock