Fracking: Ground Water

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of increased shale gas exploitation on UK groundwater.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Operators proposing to explore for shale gas using hydraulic fracturing in England require environmental permits from the Environment Agency. The permits, which are subject to a detailed site-specific assessment, set legally binding conditions on how activities are carried out so that the local environment is protected. Groundwater must be monitored before, during and after operations and the results submitted regularly to the Environment Agency. On 4 November 2019 the Government confirmed in a written Ministerial statement that, based on the current scientific evidence, it will take a presumption against issuing any further Hydraulic Fracturing Consents in England, which are required before hydraulic fracturing operations can take place. This position, in effect a moratorium, will be maintained unless compelling new evidence is provided which addresses the concerns around the prediction and management of induced seismicity. The full statement can be found at:

www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-11-04/HCWS68.

In 2018, onshore oil and gas licensing powers in Scotland and Wales were devolved to Scottish and Welsh Ministers respectively. The Devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales have adopted policy positions opposed to shale gas exploration. Further, the licensing and regulation of shale gas development is fully devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive. Any decision on whether shale developments can occur in Northern Ireland is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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