Politics

Government urged to consider cumulative impacts of fracking

The latest amendments to the Infrastructure Bill seek to require the government to take account of the cumulative effects of fracking on a local area. They also propose to prevent drilling without the landowners’ consent at depths above 1,000m.

Dr Alan Whitehead, the Labour MP for Southampton Test, has tabled amendments which would require the Secretary of State to commission reports on the cumulative impacts of:

  • Water use in fracking and refracking gas wells
  • Flowback and waste water arising from fracking and refracking
  • Road and vehicle movements associated with fracking on communities

If Dr Whitehead’s amendment were adopted, the Secretary of State would have to consider these reports before permission could be granted for a drilling site if it were within a mile of another facility.

Opponents of drilling have criticised planning guidance and Mineral Planning Authorities for not taking account of the cumulative effect of planning permissions for drilling on local communities.

Public Health England’s report on the impacts of shale gas extraction suggested the cumulative effects could be significant. It concluded: “The potential health impact from single wells is likely to be very small, although the cumulative impacts of many wells in various phases of development in relatively small areas will need careful scrutiny.”

Dr Whitehead has also submitted an amendment which seeks to increase the depth at which drilling would be allowed without the landowners’ consent. At present, Clause 38 of the Bill proposes to allow underground access without permission at depths of 300m or more. Dr Whitehead’s amendment would increase that to 1,000m.

Other new amendments

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