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London proposes new fracking restrictions

Proposals follows panel report review the risks associated with shale exploration.

By Daniel J. Graeber
London proposes new fracking restrictions
British government proposes pulling some parts of the country off the table for hydraulic fracturing. Photo courtesy of Cuadrilla Resources.

LONDON, July 16 (UPI) -- The British government boasted of its environmental track record Thursday, saying it was taking steps toward excluding some areas from hydraulic fracturing.

"The United Kingdom has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries – and we've brought that experience to bear on the shale gas protections," Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said in a statement.

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The British government published draft regulations that would place groundwater aquifers, as well as parks and heritage sites, off limits to potential hydraulic fracturing activities.

Shale energy is in its infancy in the country, though Leadsom said the government was committed to developing the sector safely and economically.

Her comments follow the publication of a set of recommendations from a British task force on shale natural gas development. The panel called on shale natural gas companies to disclose all of the chemicals used in the process, conduct baseline environmental monitoring and commit to the "highest standards" for well construction.

Chris Smith, who led the panel, said in a statement shale natural gas development through hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, is safe so long as it's done properly and with rigorous monitoring.

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"The evidence shows that many of the concerns associated with fracking are the result of poor practice elsewhere in the world, such as poorly constructed wells," he said in a statement.

British shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources suffered a setback in June when a committee in Lancashire County voted to refuse its application for a fracking campaign.

The council voted to refuse a permit to start a hydraulic fracturing campaign in the Preston New Road area of the county because of noise and visual impact concerns.

Cuadrilla estimates there may be as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas in Lancashire

The U.K. Onshore Operators Group said most of the proposals from the task force are already in place. UKOOG Chief Executive Officer Ken Cronin said in a statement he was pleased to see the panel "is satisfied that the risk levels associated with public health hazards are acceptable provided that the well is properly drilled, protected, monitored and regulated."

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