3:00pm Wednesday 18th April 2012
By Rebecca Evans
Anti-fracking campaigners fear there could be a new “dash for gas” after experts recommended the controversial method should be allowed to restart.
The gas drilling operation by firm Cuadrilla, which also has interests in Balcombe, near Haywards Heath, was halted after it triggered earthquakes near Blackpool.
An independent report, commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published yesterday, recommended stringent restrictions be placed on hydraulic fracturing including shutting down operations in the event of a tremor – even one too small to be noticed above ground.
A Cuadrilla spokesman said the company was willing to adapt to the recommendations.
But activists said the report focuses too heavily on seismic activity and misses potential concerns about water contamination, air pollution and methane leaks.
Balcombe locals said they were worried the controversial process could “wreak havoc” with the area of outstanding natural beauty.
In January scores of residents voiced their anger at a meeting with Cuadrilla chief executive Mark Miller.
Yesterday Elise Walker, an activist from campaign group Frack Off, said: “This report is a seriously dangerous distraction. People need to understand that the wave of unconventional gas development that is threatening the British Isles will bring with it far greater consequences than a number of small earthquakes.
“The scale of development proposed is being completely ignored. If we allow this to happen, we will witness the total industrialisation of the British countryside and the destruction of the ecosystems we rely on for our survival. We cannot allow this to happen.”
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for a moratorium on onshore and offshore exploration of shale gas.
She said: “In focusing solely on the potential seismic effects of fracking, this report tells us nothing about the wider environmental impact of shale gas exploration – nor about the consequences of a new dash for gas on the future of renewable energy or on action to combat climate change.”
Andy Atkins, the executive director of Friends of the Earth said: “We don’t need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs – we need a seismic shift in energy policy.”
Cuadrilla chief executive Mr Miller said: “We are pleased that the experts have come to a clear conclusion that it is safe to allow us to resume hydraulic fracturing, following the procedures outlined in the review.”
A DECC spokesman said: “No decision has been taken on whether to allow fracking to resume at Cuadrilla’s sites in Lancashire.
“We are grateful to the authors of the report and have launched a call for evidence to give people a chance to express their views on the report. Responses to the call for evidence will be carefully considered before ministers make a final decision.”
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