Rules for fracking

A number of constituents have contacted me about rules for fracking.

I appreciate constituents’ concerns about protecting the local environment and would not support applications for fracking in my constituency – indeed, I would oppose them.

It is crucial that the voices of the local community are heard in this regard.

I have carefully noted local concerns about calls by the shale gas industry to weaken regulations governing earthquakes caused by fracking and have, as requested by a number of constituents, referred these to Government representatives.

Here is their stated response:-

“It is the Government’s position that the safe development of shale gas will be good for jobs, good for our energy security, and help the UK to decarbonise its economy.

There is a very low risk that shale gas extraction could cause any noticeable tremor at the surface. Operators must now use all available geological information to assess the location of faults before wells are drilled and monitor seismic activity before during and after operations.

The Oil & Gas Authority regulates on-site micro seismicity using a traffic light system. If activity passes a very low, precautionary threshold, it is immediately paused. This threshold, a ‘red light’ in the traffic light system, is set at 0.5 on the Richter scale, equivalent to less ground movement than you would feel from a passing car. For context, according to the British Geological Survey, we have on average 166 naturally occurring events of magnitude 2.9 or below each year in the UK, most of which go unnoticed.

There are no plans to review the traffic light system.

Regarding licenses and the requirement to obtain planning permission, safety is of paramount importance when considering sites from which to extract shale gas. Even when a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence is granted, a drilling operation cannot just begin. A number of further permissions and consents must also be given. These include planning permission from the Minerals Planning Authority, environmental permits from the Environment Agency, and scrutiny by the Health and Safety Executive. The regulatory regime is robust and provides clear, strong protection for the environment.

The UK has world leading environmental regulations and with these safeguards in place, the Government position is that it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.”