Fracking regs tarnished - new report
An immediate moratorium on further unconventional gas and oil exploration and production – including fracking - is essential because regulation of the industry is inadequate, flawed or ineffectively applied and enforced, concludes a new review published today by Friends of the Earth.
The Coalition Government and industry have repeatedly claimed that UK fracking regulation is the world’s toughest and ‘gold standard’. But Friends of the Earth’s analysis identifies serious shortcomings which pose major risks from carbon emissions as well as to the local environment and nearby communities.
Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said:
“The Government and industry claim that the regulation of fracking in the UK is gold standard, but all that glitters is not gold.
“Where regulation exists, much of it is inadequate, flawed or ineffectively applied and enforced, which means big risks for the local environment and for the health of people living near drilling sites as well as increasing the risks of climate change.
“It’s time to suspend further activity while these risks are fully assessed to see if they can be controlled.”
Among the failings exposed by the report are:
• Community involvement in decision-making is being undermined, for example by proposed changes to trespass laws
• Water contamination and supply risks, climate change impacts and the effects on protected habitats are not being adequately assessed
• Inadequate monitoring and enforcement by regulators, leading to a culture of self-regulation and operators ‘marking their own homework’
• Regulators are facing budget and staff cuts
• Gas and oil companies trying to weaken regulation by direct lobbying of senior civil servants
Basic improvements needed include:
• A commitment to full public participation in decision-making, including scrapping proposed changes to the trespass law
• A full assessment of all climate change impacts
• The use of a ‘precautionary approach’ by all decision-makers
• Ensuring full and independent enforcement of all regulations
• Full baseline monitoring of water, soil and air before drilling so that the scale and impact of any subsequent contamination can be identified
• If fracking is proposed at several sites, assess total impact rather than look at sites in isolation
However Friends of the Earth argues that introducing this regulation would not remove the risk of major problems, and fracking would still not be the answer to the UK’s energy problems, because burning more fossils fuels will cause more climate change.
Tony Bosworth added:
“Basic improvements in regulation are needed, but this would only make the industry safer, rather than safe.
“The Government is so desperate to get fracking going that it has abandoned the environmental protection that we depend upon and instead seems intent on removing our right to object to fracking under our own homes.
“Fracking is a backward step which would still keep us dependent on technologies of the past, rather than helping to tackle climate change. The real solution to the UK's energy crisis is reducing our reliance on fossil fuels through energy efficiency and exploiting the UK's potential for renewables”.
Notes to editors:
1. ‘All that glitters…’ – Is the regulation of unconventional gas and oil exploration in England really gold standard’? Full report here: https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/all-glitters-critique-fracking-regulation-46660.pdf
2. ‘All that glitters…’ – Is the regulation of unconventional gas and oil exploration in England really gold standard’? Exec Summary here: https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/executive-summary-all-glitters-critique-fracking-regulation-46661.pdf
3. Friends of the Earth briefing on fracking available here: https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/shale-gas-not-all-its-fracked-be-18119.pdf
If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.