Ministers to axe planning permission for fracking firms

Image Shutterstock

Image Shutterstock

The plan also includes the creation of a Shale Environmental Regulator, a new watchdog bringing together the work now done by the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority. "Communities and their local councils across the United Kingdom have said no in every way they can, but the government have turned a deaf ear to everyone who doesn't own fossil fuel company".

Planned changes to the planning process, including allowing drilling for gas as "permitted development", would mean that fracking companies could drill straight away, minus the need for a planning application, environmental impact assessment or proper local democratic participation.

One of the main reasons for the push is that since Britain's North Sea output is declining, the United Kingdom is looking into the possibility of extracting natural shale gas through fracking.

"We welcome the measures the government has introduced on making the planning process "faster and fairer" and providing additional resources to help local authorities", Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said.

Weaning Britain off natural gas imports is one of the driving forces behind government support for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which extracts gas from rocks broken up at high pressure with water and chemicals. "However, we believe that it is right to utilise our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the United Kingdom, where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated", they wrote.

The package of actions to help fracking firms pass through the planning system is an admission that previous government efforts to help the industry have failed.

"We are pleased it is also recognised, as we ourselves are proving in Lancashire, that shale gas can and does deliver important economic benefits".

We welcome the Government's strong support and commitment to the onshore gas industry says Third Energy boss.

However, shale gas developers such as IGas, Cuadrilla and Ineos, welcomed the measures, particularly those to speed up the planning process.

In contrast, Ken Cronin, chief executive of shale gas trade body UKOOG, said the moves from the government would help boost the economy and enhance the UK's energy security.

It looks like, after seven years, the battle over the future of the United Kingdom fracking industry is still a long way from being decided.

"This announcement goes some way to ensuring that our energy security is protected and the benefits we have already seen flowing into communities become much more widespread".

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