‘Put fracking plans on hold’ - MPs warn

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America
Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America
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MOVES to begin fracking in the UK should be put on hold until concerns over its impact on the environment and public health have been addressed, according to a new report from MPs.

The Environmental Audit Committee argues the controversial mining method could contribute to climate change and that proposals to regulate the industry need to be strengthened.

Its report is published as MPs prepare to debate the Infrastructure Bill today which includes changes to trespass laws to make it easier for energy companies to target gas deep underground.

Third Energy has expressed an interest in carrying out fracking at Kirby Misperton, near Malton, in what would be one of the first such operations in the country.

Energy companies insist the risks to the environment from fracking can be managed and the process could help access valuable resources.

The Government has said it will protect areas such as national parks from fracking although the regulations would still allow mining under “exceptional circumstances”.

Environmental Audit Committee chairman Joan Walley MP said: “Even if a national moratorium on shale drilling in the UK is not accepted there should be an outright ban on fracking in such special sites.

“The Government is trying to rush through changes to the trespass laws that would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission. This is profoundly undemocratic and Parliament should protect the rights of citizens by throwing these changes out when they are debated later today.”

Fracking involves the use of chemicals, sand and water forced at high pressure through rock formations deep underground to free trapped pockets of gas.

In its report, the committee says in the absence of carbon capture and storage technology, burning gas extracted by fracking will damage the UK’s efforts to cut carbon emissions.

It also calls for unannounced spot checks of fracking sites and for companies to disclose details of the chemicals they use.

Russell Scott, from Frack Free North Yorkshire, said: “We have long argued that fracking poses significant risks to human health and our environment and agree with the EAC findings that until these risks are better understood no further unconventional gas exploration and extraction should take place in the UK.

“These findings further highlight the poor decision by David Cameron to go ‘all out for shale’ without considering the health risks to rural communities and the overall impact on climate change.”

But the energy industry dismissed the report’s findings.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “This rushed report ignores the fact that gas is not just a source of electricity but has a major impact on everyday life with respect to products we use, to heat our homes, the cooking we do and the jobs it sustains in industry.

“The report also ignores most of the evidence of a properly regulated and safe industry in the UK and that gas and renewables work together.

“Calling for a moratorium achieves only one thing - increasing the levels of gas coming from outside the UK at a substantially higher environmental cost and with significant economic consequences.”

Labour has tabled an amendment to the Bill which would tighten the rules over where fracking can take place but the party has said it could play a role in meeting future energy needs.

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex said: “Labour has always said that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead unless there is a system of robust regulation and comprehensive monitoring. As this report highlights there are significant loopholes in the current regulation.”