In a landmark ruling by the British government for the shale gas industry, horizontal fracking has been given the go ahead. The Communities Secretary Sajid Javid approved plans for fracking at Caudrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire, outraging environmentalists and local campaign groups who reacted angrily to the news, claiming it was a denial of local democracy.
A second site at Roseacre wood has not yet been given the green light to extract gas due to concerns over the impact on the area.
Lancashire County Council (LCC) had refused permission to extract shale gas at both sites last year on grounds of noise and traffic impact, however Caudrilla appealed, with its chief executive Francis Egan saying: “We have been through an exhaustive environmental impact assessment on this. We have assessed everything; noise, traffic, water, emissions, etc. The Environmental Agency is entirely comfortable with it.”
Mr Javid said the shale gas industry would help to support thousands of jobs and reduce the UK’s reliance on energy imports, stating: “When it comes to the financial benefits of shale, our plans mean local communities benefit first.”
However, responding to the ruling, Councillor Judith Blake from the Local Government Association said the decision should be up to local communities to decide whether or not fracking operations in their area should take place, stating residents’ safety concerns need to be “adequately addressed”.
Furthermore, Friends of the Earth campaigner Pollyanna Steiner said: “Fracking goes against everything we need to do to tackle climate change. The government must end its fixation with dirty fossil fuels and focus instead on harnessing the UK’s huge renewable energy resource. “
Adding to the opposition, Pam Foster, co-founder of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, said: “This is a total denial of democracy. Our parish council, our borough council, our county council all threw out this application. We have pursued every democratic channel we can do, there’s nothing left for us. We’re pretty disgusted and very upset.”
She said the campaigners would continue to fight against fracking “peacefully and legally”.
In contrast to the wave of opposition, Lee Petts from Lancashire for Shale said the decision was “excellent news for Lancashire’s businesses and our future prosperity. We believe the decision means that Lancashire is now back on track for the future investment and employment opportunities that would flow from a successful shale gas industry un the county.”
All fracking was banned in the UK in 2011 after it caused earthquakes near Blackpool, however the ban was lifted in 2012. Caudrilla wants to carry out unconventional fracking – that means drilling wells vertically and horizontally, something that has never been done before in mainland Britain.
Using latest technology, the company says huge amounts of gas could be extracted with relatively little impact above ground. Caudrilla expect to begin extracting gas by the end of 2017, however anti-fracking campaigners could delay or even stop that happening by requesting a judicial review, needing to prove the decision to approve fracking was arrived at in an unlawful manner and that it’s a costly process.