To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment he has made of the level of risk of fracking to (a) aquifers and (b) gas leakage at the surface.
The Government has been clear that the development of domestic energy sources such as shale gas must be safe and environmentally sound. The UK has a robust regulatory system which provides a comprehensive regime for exploratory activities.
The Environment Agency has carried out an assessment of the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and the measures that are needed to ensure that the local environment is protected. Based on this, the Environment Agency has developed and published detailed guidance setting out the conditions that fracking operations must meet.
Businesses proposing to explore for oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing require environmental permits from the Environment Agency, which are subject to a detailed site-specific assessment. The permits set legally binding conditions on how activities are carried out so that the local environment is protected. The permit requires that the groundwater, surface water and air quality is monitored before, during and after operations. Extraction of shale gas takes place well below the aquifers that provide drinking water, which are usually located up to few hundred metres below ground. No fracturing is permitted less than 1,000 metres below the surface.
The Environment Agency carries out regular inspections, audits and unannounced spot checks to ensure compliance with the environmental permit.