The Conservative MP heading the Net Zero Scrutiny Group has asked the government what would be needed to ease the controls on fracking.
Craig Mackinlay, who represents South Thanet, asked the energy secretary this week to “publish the criteria for revising the seismicity limits that apply to shale extraction”.
The current rules require operators to suspend operations if fracking caused earthquakes measuring 0.5 or above on the local magnitude (ML) scale.
Earlier this month, Mr Mackinlay also called for publication of the criteria for lifting the moratorium on fracking in England.
This was imposed in November 2019 after fracking-induced earthquakes at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool.
In both parliamentary questions, he referred to a scientific review of shale gas commissioned by the government in April 2022. The study, by the British Geological Survey, is expected by the end of June 2022.
Responding to Mr Mackinlay’s seismicity question, the energy minister, Greg Hands, said:
“In 2019, the Government confirmed that the pause on the exploration of shale gas reserves in England would remain in place unless and until further evidence was provided that shale gas extraction could be carried out safely. Any exploration or development of shale gas would need to meet rigorous safety and environmental protections both above ground and sub-surface.
“The Government has commissioned the British Geological Survey to advise on the latest scientific evidence around shale gas extraction. Unless the latest scientific evidence demonstrates that shale gas extraction is safe, sustainable and of minimal disturbance to those living and working nearby, the pause in England will remain in place.”
On Mr Mackinlay’s moratorium question, the minister said:
“The recent request to the British Geological Survey has been made to assess if any progress has been made in the scientific understanding which underpins government policy on hydraulic fracturing.
“The Government has always been clear that the exploration of shale gas reserves in England could only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and of minimal disturbance to those living and working nearby. The request to the British Geological Survey does not indicate a change to government policy.”