Calls are growing for the next government to make the suspension of fracking in England permanent after a minister suggested the halt to exploration may only be temporary.
The government announced an immediate moratorium on fracking on Friday in a major U-turn after the Oil and Gas Authority said in a report that it was unable predict the magnitude of any earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing.
Jeremy Corbyn described the move as “greenwash” and an election stunt. “I think it sounds like fracking would come back on 13 December, if they were elected back into office,” the Labour leader said on Saturday.
“We’re quite clear, we will end fracking. We think it’s unnecessary, we think it’s pollutive of ground water systems, and also all the evidence from Preston New Road in Lancashire is it’s actually dangerous and has caused serious earth tremors.”
The Conservatives’ 𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗿𝘆 pause of fracking is an election stunt to try and win a few votes.
Boris Johnson described fracking as ‘glorious news for humanity’. We cannot trust him.
Labour would ban fracking. That’s real change.
His intervention came after the business secretary, Andrea Leadsom, made it clear that the moratorium was only in place “until the science changes”.
“It’s a disappointment but we’ve always been clear that we will follow the science … the Oil and Gas Authority is one of the world’s best regulators and they have said to us that we cannot be certain that shale gas can be extracted safely,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked why a permanent ban was not being imposed, she replied: “Because this is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom, but we will follow the science.
“What we’re looking to see now is the exploration that Cuadrilla have carried out at Preston New Road, there will be some reports of what the potential is from those wells. So we will have better information in the future once that data has been assessed.
What is fracking?
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a way of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations that are often deep underground. It involves pumping water, chemicals and usually sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale – hence the name – and release the gas trapped within to be collected back at the surface.
The technology has transformed the US energy landscape in the last decade, owing to the combination of high-volume fracking – 1.5m gallons of water per well, on average – and the relatively modern ability to drill horizontally into shale after a vertical well has been drilled.
In England, the government placed a moratorium on fracking in November 2019 after protests, legal challenges and planning rejections. A year earlier, the energy company Cuadrilla was forced to stop work at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire twice in four days due to minor earthquakes occurring while it was fracking. The tremors breached a seismic threshold imposed after fracking caused minor earthquakes at a nearby Cuadrilla site in 2011. In March 2019 the high court ruled that the government’s fracking guidelines were unlawful because they had failed to sufficiently consider scientific evidence against fracking.
“It is quite clear that we can’t be certain. The science isn’t accurate enough to be able to assess the fault lines, the geological studies have been shown to be inaccurate and therefore unless, and until we can be absolutely certain we are imposing a moratorium.”
Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire welcomed the end of the government’s “gratuitous” support for fracking. “Our position, however, is unchanged. We believe that only an outright ban is appropriate to protect the residents and the communities they live in, and our campaign will actively continue until one is implemented,” she said.
Susan Holliday, the chair of the Preston New Action Group, also called for a total ban. “The earthquakes in August were felt by thousands of people. It must be clear from this that the Fylde coast is just not suitable for fracking,” she said.
“It must be a huge relief for those communities that are currently under the threat of planning applications for fracking, knowing that they will now no longer need to go through what we have.”
Friends of the Earth’s chief executive, Craig Bennett, hailed the move as a “tremendous victory” but urged the passage of new laws to enshrine an outright ban on fracking.
“We must now ensure that legislation is passed so that the ban is made permanent,” he said. “But we can’t stop with banning fracking here if we are going to avoid catastrophic climate change. Time is running out. The UK must stop funding fracking abroad and we must leave all fossil fuels in the ground.”
The Green party co-leader Sian Berry tweeted: “Banning fracking is for life, not just for Christmas.”
This content was originally published here.