Fracking to be banned in the UK after Government performs dramatic U-turn
Environmental campaigners hailed the ban as a victory, writes Richard Vaughan, with additional reporting from Chris Green and Dean Kirby
Fracking is to be banned in the UK after the Government announced a dramatic policy U-turn.
Until this morning’s announcement ministers had encouraged and backed the controversial shale gas industry.
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However, a moratorium was issued after a new report by the Oil and Gas Authority found it was impossible to accurately predict the “probability and magnitude” of earthquakes caused by fracking.
Fracking ban joy for protesters
An active site in Lancashire and a fracking application in Yorkshire faced huge opposition from residents who feared their homes would be blighted by earthquakes resulting from fracking, the process by which a high-pressure water mixture is injected into underground rock, fracturing it and allowing shale gas to be extracted.
Other campaigners regard fracking as an environmental disaster because of its contribution to climate change by the extraction of fossil fuel, and because of the chemicals used to release the gas.
Campaigners have won support from several celebrities, including Dame Vivienne Westwood, who danced at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site to the sound of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”.
The move has also been welcomed by local MPs, with Mark Menzies, the Tory MP for Fylde, describing it as a “necessary decision” following a recent tremor.
Mr Menzies added: “It was crystal clear that shale gas could not be extracted safely.”
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he had “very considerable anxieties” about the issue of shale gas extraction, but he has previously been a cheerleader for the sector, having described it as “glorious news for humanity” and urged the nation to “stop pussy-footing around and get fracking”.
The decision to ban it, however, negates one of Labour’s flagship policies ahead of the general election. Labour had pledged to dismantle the shale gas industry as part of its commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions this century.
The Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, who in 2016 accused anti-fracking campaigners of “scaremongering”, said as she announced the decision that it was made because it “is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community”.
The Government says it will “take a presumption against issuing any further hydraulic fracturing consents and this will continue unless compelling new evidence is provided”.
Although fracking is not outlawed by legislation, the Scottish Government’s policy is to refuse to grant permission for any fracking projects, meaning none can take place.
The Welsh Government also opposes fracking, having blocked the practice in 2015. A moratorium also exists in Northern Ireland.
No 10 falls into line with grassroots
There have been growing signs of a rift between Downing Street and grassroots Conservatives in parts of the country where fracking is an issue, reports Dean Kirby.
The party’s councillors on Ryedale District Council, an area of North Yorkshire where fracking was approved in 2016 but was yet to happen, made a historic break with the Government when they called for a local moratorium on fracking in September.
As Communities Secretary in 2016, Sajid Javid approved Cuadrilla’s plan to frack at Preston New Road, Lancashire, amid claims he was “being reckless with people’s lives”. The plan had been refused by Lancashire Council, with Mr Javid claiming shale gas had the potential to “power economic growth” and support 64,000 jobs.
The site has been the scene of major protests and last year three activists – a teacher, a piano restorer and a soil scientist – because the first environmental protesters to be jailed in the UK since 1932.
But operations at the UK’s only active hydraulic fracturing site were suspended by the Oil and Gas Authority in August after a 2.9ML (local magnitude) earth tremor shook homes.
It was the biggest quake caused by fracking in the UK and followed more than 90 tremors around the site in one month.
Greater Manchester, a region that saw huge protests in 2013, when exploratory drilling was carried out at Barton Moss in Salford, where a string of Government licences have been handed out, announced earlier this year that it would also write a presumption against fracking into its planning policies.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have all previously said they would introduce a ban.
This content was originally published here.