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New fracking regulations: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar
Fracking / iStock_000048578888

MPs have voted to allow fracking under national parks in England, at a depth of 1,200 metres. Reaction to the vote has been collated here.

All steps to minimise impact on environment taken


In a statement, United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas welcomed the legislation passed to allow fracking under national parks.

The representatives for the onshore oil and gas industry emphasised that the industry takes the protection of the natural world seriously.

“We have a long-established track record of developing oil and gas fields successfully and safely in environmentally sensitive areas.

“It is important to recognise that any future hydraulic fracturing for shale will take place several kilometres underground and, as an industry, we take all possible steps to minimise our impact on the environment and the surrounding communities."

No discernible impact on what makes national parks important


Matthew Sheppard, director and head of EIA, Turley, told The Planner that the process of drilling horizontally under a national park and fracturing rock over one kilometre deep “should have no discernible impact on the factors that make a national park important”.

Sheppard also noted that concerns have also been raised surrounding the potential for drilling sites to “ring” a national park in order to access the shale resource and therefore harm the character of the park. He said this is a “highly unlikely outcome, given the way our planning system operates and the geographical area a single multi-well pad can cover”.

U-turn on earlier promises


Rose Dickinson, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The government’s own draft report found contaminated water poses risks to human health. Yet these new rules will put our drinking water and national parks at risk of fracking - a complete U-turn on earlier promises.”

People will, and rightly so, be concerned that the government is not following through on its commitment to have strong regulations on fracking, added Dickinson.

“It is time for us to follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales by halting all plans for fracking, which is completely incompatible with tackling climate change and the agreement reached in Paris.”

Friends of the Earth said it is campaigning for a full ban on fracking because 80 per cent of fossil fuels have to remain in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

Industrialising national parks


The Campaign to Protect Rural England has expressed its disappointment.

Emma Marrington, rural policy campaigner, said it means that fracking infrastructure will be permitted in areas around “our finest landscapes”, which would “cause visual intrusion”, “damage tranquillity”, and “industrialise the settings of our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty”.

Marrington said it is a particular worry that there was no debate in Parliament.

“Ministers continue to claim that fracking infrastructure will not be permitted within protected areas, but we still haven’t seen clear proof that this will be the case. We call on the government to formalise the regulations to ensure that there is a clear ban on fracking within protected landscapes.”

Urgent rethink to energy policy required


Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “If the government is to match its rhetoric on the climate deal struck in Paris, then ministers must urgently rethink their entire approach to energy policy. To have any realistic chance of keeping global warming to well under 2°C we need to ban fracking in the UK.

“That’s why the decision to allow drilling under protected areas as well as everywhere else is so deeply disappointing. Not only does fracking fly in the face of the climate science, but mounting evidence suggests it won’t lower bills.”

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP, added that it is incredible that the decision comes “just days” after the signing of the climate change deal in Paris.

"Driving forwards a new fossil fuel industry in the UK is simply not compatible with a pledge to keep global warming to 1.5°C and decarbonise our economy. If the UK government is really committed to keeping its end of the Paris deal, it must rethink its support for fracking and invest in safe, clean, renewable energy instead."

Fracking viability will remain an issue


Timothy Pugh, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP said the good news for the industry is that the regulations are continuing to move forwards.

"The good news for the environment is that regulations ensure a precautionary approach and the regulatory burden, assuming adequate resources are made available to enforce them, is correspondingly high.”

However, Pugh said the bad news for the industry and the economy is that "fracking viability will remain an issue for as long as oil and gas prices remain depressed".

"The bad news for the environment is that DEFRA’s budget was cut in the Autumn Review and the Environment Agency’s resources will also be stretched. The next building block in assembling industry confidence will be Greg Clark’s decisions on the Cuadrilla appeals currently before him,” he concluded.