Some politicians, campaign groups and residents have reacted with anger at the official lifting of the moratorium on fracking in England. But two leading shale gas companies have welcomed today’s announcement.
The business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said this morning that people living near fracking sites should tolerate more risk and disturbance in the national interest. His statement to parliament also said:
- More shale gas sites were needed
- Government would look to better support the shale gas industry from initial exploration to large-scale production
- Regulators would be “proactive in extending existing consents and permissions”
- Ministers would review the policy on disturbance from fracking
- 100 new offshore oil and gas licences would be offered
A review of fracking science, commissioned by the government from the British Geological Survey, was published this morning. It concluded there were “significant gaps in knowledge” about shale gas basins and that predicting earthquakes remained a “scientific challenge”.
The government had previously said it would be guided by the science in decisions on the moratorium.
Claire Stephenson, of Frack Free Lancashire
“Fracking is a failed technology in the UK and should absolutely be confined to the past. We’ve witnessed more than 10 years of attempts to jack gas out of the ground in Lancashire, with no progress. There have, however, been uncontrollable earthquakes and structural damage – almost 200 reported1 claims.
“There’s also been colossal methane leaks, community disharmony, and most notably: zero commercial gas produced.
“We’re in a climate crisis with a desperate need for a clean, green energy future. Fracking will not make any positive impact3 on the UK’s energy needs or fuel bills, and any attempt to suggest it will, is blatant spin.
“For the government to use the tragic situation in Ukraine as an excuse to allow a risky and fruitless procedure to go ahead where it has repeatedly failed, and with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s belief 4 that communities “must tolerate a higher degree of risk and disturbance” for “the national interest” is an appalling trade-off.
“We stand strongly opposed and united against fracking anywhere, and we will fiercely challenge this misguided administration’s attempt to backtrack on their Conservative Manifesto promise.”
Susan Holliday, of the Preston New Road Action Group
“The BGS report concludes that forecasting seismic events is a ‘challenge’. “Based on this how can anyone say that fracking can be done safely?
“The science does not appear to have changed since the moratorium was put in place in 2019, neither has the geology in Lancashire. The WMS says that there is a need for more exploratory sites to gather data, which means that a number of new communities will become fracking guinea pigs. It seems very short sighted to be resurrecting the fracking industry which will also impact on Climate Change when we could be focusing more on renewable technologies”.
Frack Free Misson
“For years following the lifting of the first moratorium, the fracking lobby frequently quoted the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineers’ report in stating that risks to the public and the environment would be low if the industry was well regulated.
“There was a sick irony in an over-promoted Secretary of State citing that same report, whilst simultaneously telling communities that they should ‘accept a higher degree of risk and disturbance’ from fracking. This ‘industry’ has been reduced to a de facto admission that it has neither the competence, integrity or intent of meeting its own professed regulatory standards, and is now reduced to crony-enabled legislative manipulation and bribery to breach an impasse born of its own ignorant ambition.”
Danny Gross, energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth
“Ripping up the rules that protect people from fracking would send shockwaves through local communities.
“This announcement suggests that the government is planning to throw communities under the bus by forcing them to accept ‘a higher degree of risk and disturbance’.
“If the government caves into the fracking industry and allows them to cause larger earthquakes, it will further undermine confidence that fracking can be done safely.
“The reality is that fracking will have a negligible impact on energy bills, while sending more climate-changing emissions into the atmosphere. Little wonder that it is one of the least popular forms of energy generation.
“The government should listen to the science and develop an energy strategy fit for the future, not one stuck in the failings of the past. That means investing in insulation and the UK’s vast resources of cheap, clean and popular renewables.”
Freya Aitchison, oil and gas campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland
“In ploughing forward with this new licensing round, the UK Government is effectively denying the reality of the climate emergency with scientists and energy experts clear that there can be no new oil and gas. The devastating climate impacts people are enduring with floods in Pakistan, typhoons in Japan and heatwaves in the UK are being driven by burning fossil fuels.
“The UK government’s supposed checkpoint is a worthless charade as there can be no climate compatible new oil and gas. It is a deeply cynical attempt to provide cover for reckless plans to expand the very industry that is fuelling both the climate and the cost of living crises.
“With the cost of living skyrocketing due to the volatile prices of oil and gas, it’s obvious that our current system is completely unfit for purpose, serving only to make oil company bosses and shareholders richer while everyone else loses out. We urgently need a transition to an energy system powered by renewables, and a mass rollout of energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand.”
“The Scottish Government must be willing to stand up to these reckless plans to expand fossil fuels and hand out permits for oil and gas companies to explore and drill in the North Sea. These plans will lock us into a climate-destroying energy system for decades to come, entrenching reliance on this volatile industry in places like Aberdeen, and leaving people all across Scotland exposed to rocketing energy bills.”
Jamie Christon, chief executive, Chester Zoo
“Extracting and burning more fossil fuels will drive further climate change and directly contribute to biodiversity loss both here in the UK and globally. The result will be even more pressure on nature, at a time when the focus should rightly be on accelerating our investment in sustainable energy sources.
“The rationale for lifting the ban is not built on sound logic. It will do little to bring down the wholesale cost of energy, or to alleviate the immediate energy crisis. That’s not just our opinion. Other leading environmental organisations who, like us, are working across the world to prevent extinction, are opposed to fracking.
“This u-turn on fracking threatens to put local habitats and the UK’s most precious wildlife at risk.
“This proven risk to the environment was at the centre of the opposition to fracking, when sites local to our zoo were originally proposed. This strength of opposition to fracking continues to this date and we’ll continue to do what we can to support the community in opposing any future plans to commence such disastrous plans in the area.”
Chris Hopkinson, interim executive chairman, IGas
“This is a significant statement from Government and we welcome the commitment to pursue secure and affordable supplies of domestic energy.
The development of IGas’ shale gas assets has the potential to provide secure and affordable energy for the UK in the near term, helping to decouple the UK from volatile and competitive international gas markets. Aside from the clear benefits in job creation and balance of payments through producing indigenous natural gas, we will support local communities with a comprehensive benefit package.”
Francis Egan, chief executive, Cuadrilla Resources
“I am very pleased that the Government has quickly and decisively followed up the Prime Minister’s announcement of two week ago with today’s WMS.
“Communities across the North of England stand to benefit most from today’s announcement. Cuadrilla is determined that a portion of all shale gas revenue should be delivered to local residents as a community dividend. This would mean each producing shale gas site could generate potentially hundreds of millions of pounds for local households, families, and communities.
“On top of this, a thriving shale gas industry will drive job creation across the North of England, generate much needed tax revenues for central and local government, and help tackle spiralling gas prices.
“Lifting the moratorium will help the shale industry unlock UK onshore natural gas in quantities sufficient to meet the UK’s needs for decades to come.
“The last few months have highlighted the risks associated with ever increasing reliance on expensive, uncertain, and higher emission gas imports. Today’s WMS sets the foundation for us to move towards gas self-sufficiency, and not be reliant on the whims of dictators, or the vagaries of international supply lines and prices. The Government has made the right call, and we look forward to working with them to ensure this industry can start delivering for local communities, and the entire country, as soon as possible. “
Charles McAllister, director of policy, government and public affairs, UK Onshore Oil and Gas
“If the government was just to lift the moratorium and leave everything else the same investment would not come.”
He also said:
“UK shale gas offers evident economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits not provided by a continued over-reliance on energy imports.
“The BGS report clearly states that more data collection is needed in the UK and we are ready to provide proposals to Government to do just that.
“The BGS report also notes that the regulatory framework on seismicity applied to shale gas was inconsistent with wider regulation of extractive industries. It is therefore pragmatic for Government to redress this unjustified discrepancy.
“UKOOG continues to support the UK’s transition to Net Zero. Every single costed Net Zero compliant scenario recognises the need for natural gas and oil throughout and at the outcome of our 2050 goal. The WMS importantly recognises that UK natural gas production has a lower carbon intensity than Liquified Natural gas imports.
“The development of a UK shale gas industry, amongst other technologies, provides a credible path for the UK to become an energy exporter by 2040, following on from 2021 where the UK produced the least amount of energy in over 50 years.”
Andy Prendergast, national secretary, GMB
“Lifting the fracking ban could create thousands of good jobs and end the UK’s gross hypocrisy of happily using shale gas as long as it was fracked in another county.
“GMB believes we must move towards energy self-sufficiency, particularly in light of global instability after the invasion of Ukraine.
“We already have an energy crisis caused by years of Government inaction, with gas storage shut down and all but one of our nuclear plants due to close within the next decade.
“If it can be shown to be safe for workers and communities, fracking offers part of the solution to the energy crisis.
“We should take this opportunity to build an industry that creates good, unionised jobs whilst investing profits in long term carbon neutral solutions we need to hit net zero.”