To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the extraction of shale gas on the environment; and if he will publish those assessments.
The Environment Agency (EA) has been working on defining, assessing and controlling the potential environmental impacts of shale gas developments since 2013 when it produced and published a document titled An Environmental Risk Assessment for shale gas exploratory operations in England Published. This defined the range of environmental risks and the current regulatory controls and was the starting point for development of sector specific guidance. The current version of Onshore Oil and Gas Sector Guidance was published in 2019. It sets out what activities require environmental permits and how an applicant is required to demonstrate that the impact on the environment from these activities will be controlled.
The potential environmental impact of each site is assessed individually based on its specific environmental setting. Applicants are required to identify all environmental risks and provide a full demonstration of how these will be controlled. The EA assessed this information and sets out the limits and controls in a permit and how it reached the decision in an accompanying decision document.
The EA has undertaken a programme of scientific research on a range of topics relating to risk assessment and monitoring of potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas. Since 2019 it has published 18 separate reports. The EA has liaised closely with government and industry bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, the North Sea Transition Authority and UK Onshore Oil & Gas, so that scientific evidence and research findings are shared and understood.