As Third Energy prepares to frack the first UK onshore well since 2011, nine environmental organisations have told the government they have “growing concerns” about the process.
The groups, including Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Campaign for National Parks, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and WWF, wrote to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, saying fracking threatened UK commitments to tackle climate change.
Mr Clark is expected to give the final go-ahead imminently for fracking at Third Energy’s well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.
The groups said in their letter released today:
“Climate change is the most urgent and complex threat to the British countryside today.
“With the majority of known fossil fuels needing to be kept in the ground, hydraulic fracturing in England risks undermining further deployment of renewables and energy-efficiency measures, jeopardises progress towards carbon reduction, and undermines our international leadership on climate change.”
The letter said fracking was “not currently credible” in the context of the Paris climate change agreement or the UK’s own emissions reduction targets.
It added that the government’s advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, had said shale gas was incompatible with UK carbon reduction targets unless three tests were met.
The UK government has said these test were already being met. But the groups asked Mr Clark:
“How are plans for hydraulic fracturing consistent with ensuring that we do not extract more gas globally than we can safely burn?”
Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
“It would be deeply disappointing if UK government gave the green light to new fossil fuel projects, just before the UN Climate Change Conference invites international action to protect the climate. We already have more gas than we can afford to burn if we are to meet our climate targets.”
Steve Mason, from Frack Free United, founded in Ryedale, the area surrounding Third Energy’s fracking site, said:
“Giving the final sign-off for fracking to start is a crucial decision for the Secretary of State and we urge him to consider it very carefully before he puts pen to paper. It is a decision that will affect communities across the country and future generations to come.”
The groups also said in their letter there were concerns about the local impacts of shale gas extraction.
A report commissioned by the Department of Environment concluded that the process could lead to increased air pollution, from vented gas and increased road traffic. The government, when forced to publish an unredacted version of the report, said it was an internal draft. But the groups said in the letter the risk of reduced air quality would only add to a problem of illegal pollution in the UK which resulted in 40,000 premature deaths a year.
They said shale gas was also deeply unpopular. The latest government survey of public attitudes to fracking found that only 16% of participants supported the process.
They asked Mr Clark:
“What strategies are in place to ensure that local environmental impacts are kept to an acceptable level, and that residents’ concerns are addressed?”
“Risks outweigh benefits”
Earlier this month, a government report concluded that shale gas was not necessary for UK energy security, while the Clean Growth Strategy did not mention the process. DrillOrDrop report
The letter said:
“Aside from the climate, pollution, biodiversity, and local community concerns, recent geological evidence suggests there is not enough likely yield to justify the risks, and that extracting shale gas could be much more expensive than previously thought.”
Following this week’s vote in Scotland to ban fracking, Steve Mason said:
“Frack Free United believes that the government should halt all fracking activities and rethink its outdated energy policy.
“The development of a new extreme fossil fuel industry across England would have negative and far-reaching consequences for local communities, the environment, public health, climate change and our future energy strategy.
“With fracking to be banned in Scotland, the Westminster government is now isolated in backing this unpopular industry. Their own recently published energy plans made no reference to fracking, and showed that fracked gas is not necessary for energy security. The government should stop forging ahead with fracking and focus their efforts on clean, cheap and popular offshore wind and tidal power instead.”
- The letter was signed by senior figures in: 10:10 Climate Action, Angling Trust, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Frack Free United, Greenpeace, Salmon and Trout conservation, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and WWF.