Government, operators and regulators must put across a clear message about fracking following the protest at Balcombe, the leading lobbyist for the energy supply industry said today (September 19th 2013).
Michael Lunn, of the Environmental Industries Commission, said the government and the Environment Agency had “completely mismanaged” the rebuttal of claims made by campaigners against Cuadrilla’s exploration operation at Balcombe.
Mr Lunn, who is also a member of Mid Sussex District Council which covers Balcombe, was speaking at the European Shale Gas and Oil Summit in London. He said local politicians in Balcombe had been under tremendous pressure during the anti-fracking campaign. “We cannot have a Balcombe happening all over the country,” he said.
Duarte Figueria, head of the new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, said the lesson from Balcombe was the need for more public engagement. “It is very clear that the message needs to be strong. Information needs to be there and it needs to be from respected sources, not just proselytising. The public will not trust this. It is not just what is said but who said it.”
The pro-fracking MP, Dan Byles, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Unconventional Oil and Gas, acknowledged that the industry was now under much greater public scrutiny.
Mr Byles said people affected by fracking often started with general planning concerns. “It is about the number of trucks, dust, noise or traffic movements,” he said. “Then they look into fracking and they get on to the internet and there are plenty of scary websites and then fracking becomes the concern.”
He called for more exploratory drilling wells. “We need to move towards normalising this industry.” Then, he said, “It will stop being the bogeyman and people will say this is not something to be frightened of.”