Under section 50 of the Infrastructure Act 2015, hydraulic fracture consent will not be issued unless the my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State is satisfied thirteen conditions are met. This includes an assessment of environmental impacts, independent well inspections, and groundwater monitoring.
Under the Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2016, hydraulic fracturing is prohibited in “protected groundwater source areas” (SPZ1s), which are areas close to drinking water sources where there is the greatest risk associated with groundwater contamination.
The environmental regulator (the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, or Natural Resources Wales) has the power to require baseline monitoring of those environmental indicators it considers appropriate and for the lengths of time that it deems suitable for each given site. This may include monitoring of soil, air, surface water and groundwater for a range of pollutants. The regulator assesses this based on the characteristics of each site, applying the regulator’s own expert judgment rather than adopting a blanket approach.
The environmental regulator will not permit the use of hazardous substances, as defined by the Water Framework Directive and the Groundwater Directive, for any activity including hydraulic fracturing where these substances might enter groundwater and cause pollution.