The government has set out measures to provide “certainty” to shale gas investors and local communities as fracking firm Cuadrilla announced it would be leaving the site in Lancashire where their operations were blamed for two earth tremors back in 2011.
The government’s plans come in response to the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) report, written by AMEC, which sets out the potential environmental and economic impacts of full scale fracking across the UK.
The government announced that it would be exploring the possibility of “large scale shale gas production” by the 2020s, claiming that it could boost the UK’s energy security and contribute to economic growth whilst creating thousands of jobs.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said it was an “exciting prospect”, saying that between 16,000 and 32,000 jobs could be created, although the report makes a lower estimate of 2,500.
“There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won’t know for sure the scale of this prize until further exploration takes place. Today marks the next step in unlocking the potential of shale gas in our energy mix,” Fallon said.
The plans were criticsed by campaigners. Greenpeace energy campaigner Anna Jones said, “Michael Fallon is desperate to put a positive spin on this report, but what it actually shows is that the government wants to open two thirds of England up to fracking, with all the associated risks.
She added, “Enough waste water to fill 40,000 Olympic sized swimming pools could be created, and tiny villages could experience up to 50 truck movements per day. Fallon has also ignored the report’s lower jobs estimate, which is just 2,500.”
Friends of the Earth said that communities across Scotland, which were highlighted by the report as potential fracking sites, would be “alarmed” by the proposals in light of the “growing evidence about the harmful impacts” of fracking.
Balcombe in Sussex was the latest target of Cuadrilla this year and hit the headlines when mass protests took place in the village. The protests led to the arrest of Green party MP Caroline Lucas.