Environment committee wants to protect national parks and tighten regulation

The UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called for further restrictions of where and how fracking is allowed. The committee wants an outright ban on fracking in national parks and other areas of national importance. It has also called for more coherent and tighter controls on permissions and technical features of wells, including full containment of all methane.

Speciality chemicals firm Ineos, which has invested heavily in exploration rights for UK shale gas with a view to using it as a cheap chemical feedstock, called the report a missed opportunity. ‘The UK needs shale gas and Ineos has the skills to safely extract it from the ground without damaging the environment,’ said company director Tom Crotty in a statement. ‘Without shale gas, UK manufacturing will start to collapse,’ he added.

However, the EAC also criticised the government and companies’ positioning of shale gas as a cleaner-than-coal ‘bridging fuel’ that could help reduce emissions during the transition to cleaner energy sources. ‘Any large scale extraction of shale gas in the UK is likely to be at least 10–15 years away, and therefore cannot drive dirtier coal from the energy system because by that time it is likely that unabated coal-fired power generation will have been phased out to meet EU emissions directives,’ the report states.