The potential cost to the public of decommissioning fracking sites is to be investigated by the government’s spending watchdog.
The National Audit Office has announced it is working on a report on the potential costs and liabilities to government.
The report will also include the roles and responsibilities across government, the regulatory regime, government policy objectives and progress so far of the shale gas industry.
The NAO said the work was in response to “widespread parliamentary and public interest”.
Ministers have told parliament they expected operators of oil and gas licences to take responsibility for decommissioning costs.
But in March 2019, the public accounts committee reported evidence from senior civil servants that landowners and former directors could be liable if the operator went out of business.
A member of the committee, the North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley, had previously said he was disappointed that officials had been unable to give clear answers on decommissioning liability. He said he would continue to pursue the issue.
Mr Rowley, whose constituency has a site earmarked for shale gas exploration, said today:
“It’s very good news that the National Audit Office have decided to review fracking following our requests.
“There are clear gaps in Government thinking here and the NAO will bring an analytical and critical eye to evaluate many of the issues those of us with concerns have been raising.
“I would encourage everyone to get involved so that the NAO have the fullest evidence base to work off as part of their review.”
The NAO investigation is headed by Rob Prideaux, one of the organisation’s directors. Evidence can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with Fracking in the subject line.
A spokesperson for the NAO said there was no publication date for the report but this was likely to be autumn 2019. The NAO releases always coincide with a parliamentary term so the publication date is unlikely to be before 10 October 2019.