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Environment Secretary calls for fracking wells across rural UK

The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, said this afternoon (28/1/14) he wanted to see fracking wells across the UK countryside. He said fears about fracking had been exaggerated and environmental concerns were groundless.

Mr Paterson was giving evidence to the investigation into shale gas by the House of Lords economic affairs committee. He said “I would like to see shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK because I think it will bring wealth and prosperity and jobs.”

He told the committee there was huge economic potential for shale gas. “We should pursue it but in a thoroughly professional manner. If it is conducted in the usual professional manner there should not be dangers to environment.”

The Secretary of State promised his department and the Environment Agency would not “cut corners” with regulation. He said “It is really important for the whole commercial future of this industry that these things are seen to be done properly during the exploratory period, during the extraction period and once a well has been finally exhausted.”

But he acknowledged there was hostility in Britain to shale gas. He blamed campaigners, who he said “are running a proper political campaign … and they have done a good job in alarming the public”. He rejected fears about earthquakes, flaring and emissions as “massively exaggerated”. And when challenged by Lord May about concerns that operators could use their own employees to inspect wells, he said: “I would say look at our record. The current arrangements [in the North Sea] have delivered huge volumes of oil and gas with enormous benefits to the economy.”

Mr Paterson urged the committee to be optimistic. Shale gas production was not, he said, “an enormous revolutionary change”. He said: “Once we get started [on shale gas production] we will see a benign virtuous circle. People will realise that this is an activity very similar to extraction of hydrocarbons before.”

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