A group of MPs have called for the UK’s fledgling fracking industry to be put on hold because the method is incompatible with climate change targets and presents “significant localised” environmental risks to public health.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling and injecting fluids into the ground at a high pressure in order to release shale gas. Whilst the industry has experienced high growth in the US, it is still relatively small and new in the UK. The method is controversial, with studies linking the practice to environmental degradation, earthquakes, methane leaks and health risks.
MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee will today attempt to amend the government’s infrastructure bill, arguing that fracking should be placed on hold.
Joan Walley MP, chair of the committee, said, “Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely.
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“There are also huge uncertainties around that impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health.”
She added that even if a national moratorium on fracking is not accepted, there should be “an outright ban” on fracking in special sites, such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Government plans to change trespass laws, which would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission, were also labelled as “profoundly undemocratic”.
The Environmental Audit Committee is calling for the government to halt the issuance of additional fracking licences and permits if commercial operators cannot demonstrate they have the resources to cover full liability in the event of pollution incidents, as well as full containment of methane being mandated within the licences and permits. Furthermore, the committee wants a defined and mandated separation distance between fracking sites and underground aquifers to protect drinking water.
Responding to the committee’s conclusions, Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said, “The committee is completely correct to say that if UK shale gas plays a major role in our electricity generation, that would have significant implications for our climate change targets.
“In could be useful in other applications, however – but before promoting the industry, ministers really ought to do some proper thinking about where shale gas can be used within carbon budgets, and where it cannot.”
Photo: UKBERRI_net via Flickr