I fully understand and appreciate people’s concerns about fracking. Please let me reassure you that the Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment. With these in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.
Regulations will ban fracking at depths of less than 1,200 meters below National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites, and fracking wells cannot be sited in National Parks or other protected areas. Consent cannot be granted for drilling without an environmental impact assessment, and operators are required to monitor the level of methane in groundwater.
Additionally, fracking will not take place within protected groundwater source areas, defined as land at a depth of less than 1,200m of the surface. Drinking water is not normally found below 400m. The Government’s approach is guided by advice from the Environment Agency. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) also already enjoy strong protection under the existing planning and regulatory regime. These rules make it clear that development should not normally be permitted if it is likely to have a negative impact on a SSSI.
The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries, and Ministers have assured me that that this experience will be brought to bear on the shale gas protections. The industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security, while all the time safeguarding some of our most precious landscapes.