The British government has announced a major climbdown on fracking by bringing in strict new rules on where it can take place. The Daily Mail says that shale gas extraction will be all but banned in National Parks and other protected rural areas.
The move by the Department for Energy and Climate Change will likely be seen as an attempt to appease voters who are fearful of fracking in the run up to next year’s general election.
The announcement also puts an end to bold suggestions from ministers last year that up to 40 percent of Britain could potentially be used for fracking, as many of the restricted areas announced today include large swathes of the English countryside, especially Conservative-voting areas in the south.
The plans also go against the strong rhetoric of former Energy Minister Michael Fallon, now promoted to Defence Secretary, who said last year that fracking would take place across southern England, including: “Dorset all the way along Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, all the way perhaps a bit into Surrey and even into my county of Kent. It’s right there.”
The new rules will apply to all National Parks, government-designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), World Heritage Sites and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. National Parks cover some 10 percent of Britain, while AONBs cover a further 20 percent, meaning that fracking will become all but impossible in large parts of the country.
This will now put a new emphasis on fracking in the north of England, especially as a report last year suggested that the Bowland site in Lancashire could contain 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas, which could power Britain for decades.
Last month, a group of over 50 lecturers and professor wrote an open letter to the Guardian, calling for the site to be exploited. They said:
“Globally high prices for commodities and recent innovations mean this is now economically and technologically possible.
“As geoscientists and petroleum engineers from Britain’s leading academic institutions, we call on all politicians and decision-makers at all levels to put aside their political differences and focus on the undeniable economic, environmental and national security benefits on offer to the UK from the responsible development of natural gas from Lancashire’s shale.”