Shale gas exploration goes ahead - but with limits

Fracking moratorium defeated as MPs agree to concessions

FrackingThe UK government yesterday rejected a call to impose a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, but said it would not be allowed in sensitive areas, including national parks.

MPs easily outvoted a move by the cross-party environmental audit committee which had opposed fracking on the grounds that  it was incompatible with Britain’s climate change targets.

Grangemouth owner Ineos criticised the committee’s position, warning a moratorium would risk Britain losing out on a major energy revolution.

The company is importing shale gas produced from fracking to reduce costs at its chemicals plant on Forth, and accused the committee of being “partial, partisan and has deliberately focused on the potential risks rather than the benefits of fracking.”

It said more than a  million wells have been drilled in the US which had led to a manufacturing renaissance bringing jobs and prosperity to the country.

Concessions to Labour and activists to restrict shale gas activity last night enabled the government to easily defeat a Commons motion calling on a moratorium by some 250 votes.

Following the debate, a Government spokesman said fracking offered the chance of a “whole new British industry”.

The spokesman said: “The Government has already built a robust regulatory system for the development of the shale industry in the UK.

“Today we are committing to formalise the safeguards, including a new ban on fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

“Successfully extracting shale gas out of the ground can create a whole new British industry, creating jobs, and make us less reliant on imports from abroad, but we recognise the need for a measured approach for this nascent industry.”

Labour welcomed the concessions. Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said it had been a “huge u-turn” for ministers to accept the Opposition amendment on conditions while Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Simon Clydesdale said the concessions proved the government had doubts about allowing fracking.

“Banning fracking from national parks and sensitive water protection areas, though basic common sense, is a clear step forward in recognising the risks of this industry,” he said.

“Now that ministers have implicitly recognised that shale drilling is too risky for our nature reserves, they’ll have a tough job trying to explain why that isn’t the case across the country.”

Ineos director, Tom Crotty, said: “The UK needs shale gas and we know that Ineos has the skills to safely extract it from the ground without damaging the environment.

“We have committed to consultation with local communities and to give them 6% of the entire revenue from our shale gas wells. Without shale gas, UK manufacturing will start to collapse, so we need to kick start the shale gas industry, not put it on hold.”

Mr Crotty accused the EAC of deliberately seeking out views that focused on concerns about water quality, emissions and geological integrity.

“The committee refused to see Ineos and didn’t look hard enough at the massive decline in the UK’s manufacturing base and the country’s desperate need for shale gas to reduce energy costs and revitalise industry”

Ineos said it has recruited some of the best US shale gas experts with more than 15 years expertise in shale gas extraction and they now stand ready to help the UK develop its own shale gas industry.

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