Campaigners criticise report’s ‘safe’ verdict on fracking in UK

CAMPAIGNERS have dismissed the findings of an industry-funded report which has insisted fracking can be carried out safely in the UK.

The proposed fracking site in Kirby Misperton

The Task Force on Shale Gas found that problems with fracking around the world were the fault of poor practice and regulation rather than with the process itself.

It recommended fracking companies should disclose the details of the chemicals they pump underground and called for the rules on the monitoring of water air and soil at drilling sites to be strengthened.

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The report also found that a process known as “deep injection” used to get rid of waste water used in the process was more likely to cause earthquakes than fracking and should be ruled out in the UK.

Former Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith, who leads the Task Force on Shale Gas, said: “Our conclusion from all the evidence we’ve seen is clear. Only if the drilling is done properly and to the highest standard, and with rigorous regulation and monitoring, can shale gas fracking be done safely for local communities and the environment.”

But he admitted that “there’s an uphill struggle here because the public are sceptical.”

He added: “The thing I’ve said from the outset to the industry the two absolutely essential things are complete openness and transparency about what you’re doing and full engagement with local communities from the outset.”

The report has been published as proposals are developed to carry out test-fracking at a site in Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale.

Third Energy submitted an application to North Yorkshire County Council but it was withdrawn after the authority raised a serious of questions about the detail of its proposals.

The company will submit a fresh application to carry out test fracking to see if the site can produce gas in commercial quantities.

A spokesman from the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group said: “The public needs to realise that the Task Force on Shale Gas is entirely funded by shale gas companies such as Cuadrilla, Centrica and Total, so all claims of independence should be taken in that context.

“Aspects of the report read like an industry shopping list, such as removal of full planning consent before boreholes can be drilled, and the establishment of a single body to oversee regulations.”

The Government has enthusiastically backed the development of a UK fracking industry to improve the country’s energy security and create jobs.

But every attempt by the industry to establish operations has been met by fierce opposition.

The latest setback was suffered last month when applications to frack at two sites were rejected by Lancashire Country Council.

Industry body the UK Onshore Oil and Gas welcomed today’s report.

UKOOG chief executive Ken Cronin said: “I was pleased that the report highlighted a number of areas that we have already considered and have taken action on.

“The tone of the report is geared towards creating a better understanding of hazard and risk which I think will be invaluable for those coming to this subject for the first time.

“I was particularly pleased to note that the Task Force is satisfied that the risk levels associated with public health hazards are acceptable provided that the well is properly drilled, protected, monitored and regulated.”