Local councils are set to lose their say on whether controversial shale gas harvesting goes on in their area as new planning guidelines were published last week.
After allegedly causing unusual seismic activity in the United States, campaigners have vehemently opposed exploiting shales gas reserves in the British countryside, and so far have been able to focus on local councils to monitor what activity takes place in their area.
However, new planning guidelines will strip councils of the ability to investigated potential fracking-related issues – in particular, potential impact on seismic activity and ground water contamination as well as risks of flaring and venting – before granting planning permission to companies looking to establish new wells.
A potentially-lucrative finite source of commercial energy, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive will now oversee those investigations ahead of time.
Opponents to the new guidelines – which will not be open for consultation – fear that the new guidelines will all-but-remove local authorities right to make their own decisions on energy issues independent of central Government energy policy and create a ‘pro-fracking’ image for the UK in the eyes of companies who wish to exploit shale gas.
Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said that that it would limit what was taken into consideration before permission to set up a well is granted, as the government lacks the local knowledge provided by councils.
“These ‘guidelines’ are little more than a carte blanche to dispatch dirty energy companies into the British countryside to start sinking thousands of new fracking wells – and without any consultation. This could threaten communities’ quality of life and will mean more climate-changing pollution being pumped into our atmosphere – and despite all the hype, there’s plenty of evidence that it won’t lead to cheaper fuel bills.”
Share your thoughts
With that taken into consideration, would you welcome a more stable energy economy in the UK that relied on shale gas? Or are the environmental risks too great?