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British shale gas work gets the green light

Opponents argue the government is working to silence the voice of opposition.

By Daniel J. Graeber
British shale gas work gets the green light
British government issues ruling on local appeals to hydraulic fracturing, siding in favor of the energy industry. Photo by photostock77/Shutterstock

Industry appeals to local challenges to hydraulic fracturing operations were upheld and that work can now proceed, the British government said Thursday.

The British Department for Communities and Local Government sided in favor of oil and gas companies, issuing a 600-page ruling that said shale natural gas work in the country was a national interest.

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"The need for shale gas exploration is a material consideration of great weight in these appeals, but that there is no such government support for shale gas development that would be unsafe and unsustainable," the ruling read.

The government overturned an appeal at the so-called Preston New Road site, but held off appeals for now on the separate Roseacre target.

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Campaigners opposed to hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, said national infrastructure policies were drafted in a way that sidelined local voices. Beyond the concerns about the controversial drilling practice, which may be linked to groundwater contamination and small earthquakes, local advocates said the fight against the government was a fight for local empowerment.

"Not only is this decision undemocratic, it could open the floodgates for more fracking across the country if the government is willing to overturn decisions made by local councils," the British Friends of the Earth said in a statement.

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The British government estimates shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.

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On Preston New Road, shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources said it welcomed the consent for drilling operations at four exploration wells in Lancashire Country. Concerns about the impacts to road conditions in Roseacre would be addressed in due course.

CEO of Cuadrilla Resources Francis Egan said in a statement emailed to UPI the decision was a vote of confidence for the country's energy future.

"We are confident that our operations will be safe and responsible and the comprehensive site monitoring program planned by regulators and independent academics will in due course conclusively demonstrate this," he said. "We hope this will reassure the minority of people whom remain sceptical about shale gas exploration."

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