UK regulatory bodies ‘not adequate’ to oversee fracking – report finds

Fracking sign
Source: DollarPhotoClub

A new report published today by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) found major shortcomings in regulatory oversight regarding local environmental and public health risks in the UK. According to the report, UK local authorities and other regulators have undergone budget cuts, undermining their ability to provide adequate regulatory oversight. In view of this fact, the report finds it worrying that regulation is being presented as the way in which shale gas extraction can be effectively managed to reduce the risks.

The report also pointed out that, even though applying U.S. shale industry experience to the UK is not straightforward, evidence of local environmental contamination resulting from shale exploration in the U.S. is well-documented. This raises concerns that, even with strong regulation, the safety of fracking in the UK is in doubt.

CIEH Chief Executive, Graham Jukes, OBE said: “In the enthusiasm to exploit new sources of energy we must assess and ensure that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment or on the health of people in the communities surrounding extraction sites. Despite central government encouragement for the process, local authorities should resist allowing shale gas extraction in their areas until they are satisfied on that point. We believe that there is currently insufficient evidence to provide such assurance for proposals in the UK and the precautionary principle should apply’

What is more, the authors of the report believe that the drive to explore shale might undermine national and international efforts to tackle climate change.

SGR Executive Director and co-author of the report, Dr Stuart Parkinson said: “The evidence we have gathered shows that exploiting yet another new source of fossil fuels – such as UK shale gas – is likely to further undermine efforts to tackle climate change. We need to focus on low carbon energy sources, especially renewables, together with concerted efforts to save energy.”

The report will not be welcomed by the Government whose support for shale development is well-known. Shale gas is seen as a ‘greener’ alternative to coal and a means to achieving energy independence – an issue of particular importance in view of the deteriorating relationship with Russia.

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