Environment: UK’s fracking ban officially lifted by government

Environmental campaigners protest fracking in England (Picture: Getty / PA)

Liz Truss‘government has lifted the ban on fracking in a hugely controversial but expected move branded as ‘a charter for earthquakes’.

Drilling for shale gas could begin in as little as six months after the Tories vowed to explore all avenues to improve energy security in the UK amid Russia‘s war in Ukraine.

Business and energy secretary Jacob Rees-Moggwho took on the post less than a month ago, said the impact of the invasion means securing domestic energy supplies is vital.

The MP suggested limits on acceptable levels of seismic activity are too restrictive.

He said: ‘In light of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority.

‘As the PM said, we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.

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Protestors at a farm site at Little Plumpton, near Blackpool, Lancashire (Picture: Getty Images)
Anti-fracking groups from around Scotland demonstrated outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 2017 (Picture: PA)

‘To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production.

‘So, it is right that we have lifted the pause to realize any potential sources of domestic gas.’

The moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been in place since 2019 after a series of tremors caused by the process.

The technique involves drilling long, horizontal wells into shale rocks deep below the earth’s surface.

Worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, in Little Plumpton, Lancashire (Picture: PA)

It has been opposed by environmental groups and local communities for years, with mass protests in parts of the country most affected by it.

At the time of the ban, the industry regulator said it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger.

Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said shortly after the announcement: ‘Fracking is a dangerous fantasy – it would do nothing to cut energy bills, costs more than renewables, and is unsafe.

‘The Tories have broken another promise because they are more interested in standing up for the fossil fuel lobby than the British people.’

But Ms Truss insisted she will not authorise ‘anything that carries a risk’.

A protest banner against fracking at the same farm (Picture: Getty Images)

The announcement also did not go down well with some Tories in the Commons this morning.

Sir Greg Knight, the Tory MP for East Yorkshire, questioned Mr Rees-Mogg: ‘Despite what he has said, is it not the case that forecasting the occurrence of seismic events as a result of fracking remains a challenge to the experts?

‘Is it not therefore creating a risk of an unknown quantity to pursue shale gas exploration at the present time?

‘Is he aware the safety of the public is not a currency in which some of us choose to speculate?’

Whatever the government’s plans are, the founder of the UK’s first fracking company has warned that the process will be impossible at any meaningful scale and will not help with the energy price crisis.

Chris Cornelius, the geologist who founded Cuadrilla Resources, which drilled the UK’s first modern hydraulic fracturing wells in Lancashire, told the Guardian that he believed the government’s support for it is merely a ‘political gesture’.

‘I don’t think there is any chance of fracking in the UK in the near term,’ he said.

The government also announced a new oil and gas licensing round, expected to be launched by the North Sea Transition Authority in early October.

This is expected to lead to more than 100 new licenses being granted to search for oil and gas in the North Sea.

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