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County Council calls for tighter regulation on 'fracking'

John Freeman
Lancashire County Council has welcomed new controls on the extraction of shale gas but called upon the government to introduce industry specific regulation of hydraulic fracturing.

In a unanimously approved notice of motion, the County Council also called for regular on-site inspections and considerable sanctions should any breaches take place, whilst stressing that regulation must ensure that local planning control is maintained.

County Councillor Michael Green, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning said: "Lancashire's reserves of gas are currently the focus of attention for developers of what may become a shale gas industry in the UK. We are adamant that planning decisions should continue to be taken locally, to ensure there is accountability to our residents. We are determined that the regulatory authorities do all they can to ensure that operations are as safe as they can possibly be for the people of Lancashire.

"The County Council has a statutory role in determining individual planning applications related to shale gas operations.
"We are obliged to consider any such applications on their own merits within the national regulations planning authorities are bound by.

"Any decisions will take account of all representations received on planning grounds, which would include guidance from those agencies responsible for determining the safety of the fracking process and any environmental impacts - namely the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.

"Naturally we're keeping a close eye on developments in this area, particularly in light of the recent announcement on national energy policy and the establishment of a shale gas office. It will be interesting to see what role and responsibilities such an office may have."

The full text of the notice of motion reads:

Lancashire County Council recognises that:

The UK will face energy supply problems in the next few decades which are unlikely to be solved by current efforts to promote renewable sources of energy supply. Moreover, particularly in terms of security of gas supply, the UK is vulnerable to political actions in its sources of overseas supply.

It follows that new sources of energy supply that involve controversial technologies and methods should not be rejected out of hand but be subject to careful scrutiny and regulation. One such process is Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) of shale type rock to release entrapped gas in commercial quantities.

Unfortunately there are no specific onshore exploration or extraction regulations for natural gas and the offshore regulations developed in the 1990s are not sufficient to address all the issues that arise from moving the process onshore especially in populated areas of Lancashire.

Lancashire County Council welcomes the new controls on seismic activity announced today, but calls on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to introduce industry specific regulation of hydraulic fracturing for the UK shale gas industry and to ensure that there are regular on-site inspections by the regulatory body with rigorously enforced regulations and considerable sanctions should any breach of regulations take place. Such industry specific regulation must ensure that local planning control is maintained.

For more on local fracking issues and campaigns see our previous story: