Ban fracking says government committee

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee are calling for a new fracking moratorium in the UK to avoid carbon budgets being breached in the 2020s. It said that shale gas is incompatible with carbon reduction targets and could pose significant environmental risks to public health.


The report “Environmental Risks of Fracking” has been submitted to inform debate on the Infrastructure Bill, which has its third reading in Parliament today.

“Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely. There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health,” said Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. 

“There can be no justification for a further fracking moratorium.  Every aspect of shale gas extraction has been carefully and thoroughly assessed in the last three and a half years" - Onshore Energy Services Group

Along with a ban on hydraulic fracturing in areas of outstanding national beauty and national parks, the committee is also calling for tighter safeguards around methane venting, groundwater protection and permitting. It also calls for a more joined up regulatory strategy for shale gas extraction and highlights proposed changes in the Bill as being undemocratic.

“The Government is trying to rush through changes to the trespass laws that would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission. This is profoundly undemocratic and Parliament should protect the rights of citizens by throwing these changes out when they are debated later today,” said Walley.

The report follows a list of 11 amendments to the Infrastructure Bill being sought by Labour MP Tom Greatrex who called for an overhaul of the regulatory regime in early December. He is calling for water companies to become statutory consultees in the planning process and for the Health and Safety Executive to play a greater role in monitoring well inspections.

However the Onshore Energy Services Group accused the MPs of ignoring expert advice about the safety and regulation of shale gas. “There can be no justification for a further fracking moratorium.  Every aspect of shale gas extraction has been carefully and thoroughly assessed in the last three and a half years, with a range of independent academics and institutions all concluding that it can be undertaken safely,” said Lee Petts, interim chief executive at the OESG.

“Further delay now will only mean that Britain continues to miss out on the environmental and economic benefits of domestically produced shale gas. The current and future prospects of supply chain SMEs are being put in jeopardy by elected representatives using shale gas as a political football, threatening jobs and deterring investment." 

Independent organisations including the Royal Academy of Engineering, Public Health England and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) have all published reports that explore the perceived risks from hydraulic fracturing including water pollution, methane leakage and earthquake risks. Engineers found that the process can be done safely without polluting the environment provided well integrity is ensured and proper precautions followed.

Consultant Arup has been conducting detailed analysis in this area as it prepared Environmental Impact Assessments for two proposed exploratory well sites in Lancashire. The firm told Infrastructure Intelligence in August that the resource could be a transition fuel towards decarbonisation.  A decision on the planning application for the two sites, to be developed by energy firm Cuadrilla, will be made this week. However last week Lancashire County Council advised planners to refuse permission over noise concerns.

More links:

Arup on shale gas:

UK needs to drill more holes:


If you would like to contact Bernadette Ballantyne about this, or any other story, please email