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File photo of worker on fracking rig Orlin Wagner/AP/Press Association Images
Fracking

UK lifts 'fracking' ban

The Green Party in Ireland has reiterated its call for a ban on fracking in this country.

BRITAIN’S GOVERNMENT HAS said today that fracking can be resumed in the country, despite suspicions that it may have led to earthquakes.

The British government came out in favour of the controversial shale gas extraction method known as fracking (hydraulic fracturing), saying that work should be resumed even though it is suspected of having triggered earthquakes.

Exploratory fracking can restart under tight controls to “mitigate the risks of seismic activity”, Energy Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement.

Trials

The British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources had been forced to halt drilling trials in Lancashire in northwest England after the technique was thought to have caused a 2.3-magnitude tremor in April 2011 and a 1.5-magnitude tremor in May.

But Davey said today that his decision to allow the firm to resume test drilling was “based on the evidence”.

It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field.
We are strengthening the stringent regime already in place with new controls around seismic risks. And as the industry develops we will remain vigilant to all emerging evidence to ensure fracking is safe and the local environment is protected.

Davey said shale gas was a “promising new potential energy resource” for Britain which could contribute to energy security and reduce the reliance on imported gas.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the drilling of underground shale rock formations by injecting chemicals and water to release trapped natural gas. Opponents say it causes water pollution but energy groups say it provides access to considerable gas reserves and drives down prices.

Cuadrilla Resources’ chief executive Francis Egan hailed the decision as “a turning point for the country’s energy future”.

Exploitation of shale gas in the United States has helped to substantially bring down energy prices and the British government has expressed hope that it can have a similar effect in Britain.

Davey warned though that Britain should not put all its hopes in shale gas extracted through fracking, and it must be part of a mix of energy sources.

Cuadrilla is the only company which has currently started exploration of shale gas resources in Britain, but the government’s decision clears the way for potential exploration elsewhere. The company says reserves in Lancashire alone could supply a quarter of Britain’s gas demands in the future.

Shock waves

Friends of the Earth Executive Director Andy Atkins, said: “Giving the green light to fracking for shale gas will send shock waves across the UK.

“Communities up and down the country will be disturbed by this reckless decision which threatens to contaminate our air and water and undermine national climate targets.”

Here in Ireland, the Green Party has again reiterated its call for a ban on fracking in this country. It said that it favours investment in renewable and clean energies.

Green Party spokesperson for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Cllr Malcolm Noonan, said that because fracking involves the transportation of enormous quantities of water, it “undermines the value of shale gas as an energy source”.

He added that the process has the potential to be “extremely divisive in the localities where extraction may occur”, which could have a damaging social impact.

He added:

We need to ask why we would go down the route of relying on a risky and polluting industry when we have other cleaner and more sustainable energy supplies available to us?

Read: Natural gas field in west Clare confirmed as prospective fracking site>

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