Energy and Climate Change written question – answered on 9th September 2013.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent assessment he has made of the safety of fracking and the risk of contamination of groundwater; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills , Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr Davey, stated in Parliament in December 2012, that he was in principle prepared to consent to new fracking proposals for shale gas, where all other necessary permissions and consents were in place. He made that statement having carefully reviewed the evidence with the aid of independent experts, and with the aid of an authoritative review of the scientific and engineering evidence on shale gas extraction conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society. Appropriate controls are available to mitigate the risks of undesirable seismic activity. These controls will be required by the Department for all future shale gas wells.

On 31 July this year, the Environment Agency released its environmental risk assessment of shale gas exploration. This assesses the risk of contamination of groundwater and the measures needed to address that risk. The report found that the residual risk (having mitigated against environmental risks to exploration) is low.

The Environment Agency has also set out what it expects to see from operators before it will allow any exploration for oil or gas. This can be found in its draft technical guidance for onshore oil and gas exploratory operations, which is out for consultation until 23 October.

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