Thank you to those who have contacted me about fracking.
I hope to be able to offer reassurances over your concerns about any health impacts of fracking.
The UK has world-class, independent regulators, including the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive. These regulators have undertaken extensive work and study into the field and are responsible for monitoring and mitigating risk associated with the type of drilling. Safety and public health are, and will always be, absolutely paramount.
It is my understanding that papers and articles citing a link between fracking and cancer are concerned about the release of harmful gases as part of the fracking process. Oil and gas operators must minimise the release of gases as a condition of their licence from the Government. Operators must submit a plan on how they will do this and the Environment Agency carries out spot-checks and unannounced inspections to ensure that companies are complying. Unlike the US, it also is a legal requirement in the UK for operators to disclose fully the composition of fracturing fluid additives as part of their application for environmental permits.
Rest assured, the risk of earthquakes connected to fracking has also been examined. While fracking operations in other countries have been associated with larger earthquakes, this has only happened when large quantities of waste water have been re-injected into the rock. This technique is not be permitted in the UK.
Projections put in place since 2011 have also been strengthened to mitigate the risk of seismic activity. Operators must now use all available geological information to assess the location of faults before wells are drilled, monitor seismic activity before during and after operations. This ensures that fracking is avoided in areas that could be connected to earthquakes.
Regulations now protect some of the country’s most beautiful areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, meaning shale gas exploration cannot take place at depths of less than 1,200 metres in these areas. The Government is also committed to banning wells drilled at the surface of these areas or within Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
I am pleased that the Government understands that it is critical for the industry to have the confidence of the public if it is to flourish in the long term.