Outrage and a warm welcome for fracking plans

Outrage and a warm welcome for fracking plans”

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

Preliminary drilling may be classed as permitted development - that's the same law that allows people to build a small conservatory.

The UK government on Thursday set out plans to accelerate the drilling approval process for shale gas in England as part of a new push to exploit the country's vast unconventional gas resources and reduce dependence on imports. Scotland has introduced a de facto ban on shale gas development.

It is also planning to bring in a new shale environmental regulator - an umbrella group "which will bring the regulators together to act as one coherent single face for the public, mineral planning authorities and industry" overseeing the roles now carried out by the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority.

But Green campaigners slammed the proposals and said they would pave the way for fracking to become a Wild West where "whatever cowboy" can start drilling.

"If there was a referendum on fracking, it would be banished to the dustbin of history - and that's where these proposals belong".

They also stressed that innovations in technologies such as Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) have the potential to decarbonise gas further, arguing that as such "it is right to utilise our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the United Kingdom, where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated". "After seven years of fracking doing less than nothing to help our economy, the government's still going all out for shale, and still trampling over democracy to prop up this collapsing industry", she said.

Permission to frack would also be the remit of a central government agency and not local councils; the representatives of local people.

The announcement has been welcomed by the shale gas industry.

"We are pleased it is also recognised, as we ourselves are proving in Lancashire, that shale gas can and does deliver important economic benefits".

The shale arm of chemicals giant Ineos - which has licenses to drill at several sites in the United Kingdom - said the country potentially had enough home-grown gas to be self-sufficient for years.

"We are clear that it should be up to local communities to decide whether or not to host fracking operations in their areas".

And fracking in widely used in the USA, where it has revolutionised the energy industry.

"The announcement is a step in the right direction and there is much more that needs to be done".

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