UK fracking plans thwarted as MPs warn of “undemocratic” laws

Shale gas extraction deemed incompatible with emissions targets

The UK’s fledgling fracking industry has suffered a major set-back as a group of MPs have called for a moratorium on shale gas extraction.

The environmental audit committee has said that fracking is incompatible with UK climate change emissions targets and that “huge uncertainties” remain over the impact of fracking on water supplies.

The committee also warned that the government was rushing through “profoundly undemocratic” laws to help grow the industry.

The government has been vocal in its strong support for fracking, which it believes will drive down domestic energy costs and lessen the UK’s dependence on imports.

George Osborne has described fracking as a “personal priority”, and has requested that ministers make various interventions to fast-track the process.

Meanwhile, David Cameron said the government was “going all-out” on shale gas, saying the industry would create thousands of jobs.

Controversial measures the government is looking to bring in to speed up shale gas exploitation include offering up public land for future drilling, and new measures allowing the government to overrule local planning decisions by councils.

The first planning application for full-scale fracking operations in the UK is to be decided this week.

Two sites in Lancashire are under consideration for fracking by drilling company Cuadrilla, but Lancashire county council has already recommended refusing permission to the company.

If the drilling goes ahead, it will be the first shale gas drilling in the UK since 2011, when Cuadrilla suspended operations after triggering two earthquakes.

Joan Walley, chair of the environmental audit committee (EAC), said: “Fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely. There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health.”

Other areas of concern for the committee include government moves to frack in nature reserves and changing trespass laws to allow drilling under private properties without permission. “This is profoundly undemocratic,” Walley said.

Industry body, the United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) chief executive Ken Cronin, said: “Calling for a moratorium achieves only one thing — increasing the levels of gas coming from outside the UK at a substantially higher environmental cost and with significant economic consequences,” the FT reports.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We disagree with the conclusion of the EAC report. We have one of the most robust regulatory regimes for shale gas. UK shale development is compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and does not detract from our support for renewables, in fact it could support development of intermittent renewables,” the Guardian reports.

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