Fracking has been central to much discussion within the UK for quite some time now, however within recent weeks it has been brought back into the spotlight. UK legislation experienced changes last week which denies landowners the right to refuse fracking on their land and below their property, ultimately giving operators legal right of access to homeowners land.
This follows another controversial move by the government back in January when the requirement for operators to inform homes individually about upcoming or potential shale gas operations was abandoned. Both of these legislation changes experienced opposition, with the most recent receiving protest from 99% of people who were consulted- more than 40,000.
The majority of negative responses related to concerns about the potential long term dangers of fracking, largely that fracking fluid, often containing radioactive and toxic materials, would be disposed under people’s homes or into the waterways. Simon Clydesdale, a campaigner at Greenpeace UK stated that rather than “toughening up rules, ministers are bending over backwards to put the interests of shale drillers before the safety of our environment and our climate”- clearly these new changes have sparked fears that the government is neglecting public health in order to boost shale gas operations.
However despite the worries that are being considered by much of the public, the government stays determined that this new legislation does not increase the risks of fracking. They emphasise that whilst landowners will no longer be able to object to fracking under their homes, operators are still required to gain permission from the minerals planning authority following an environmental assessment, as well as receiving a permit from the relevant environmental authorities (England, Wales, and Scotland). Only if no significant environmental impact is anticipated will fracking be allowed and operators are made to ensure safe abandonment of the well in accordance with UK Oil & Gas guidelines.
Government ensure that this legislation does not discourage public health and safety and those operators will still be held to adhere to strong requirements. A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change argued that such changes to legislation should be welcomed rather than objected as it stands to kick-start shale and geothermal projects, which will have numerous benefits including energy price stability, new jobs / employment growth and the opportunity for greener energy resources.
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