I have been contacted by a number of constituents on fracking and the use of shale gas. I fully understand and appreciate people’s concerns on the issue, and have regularly met with Government ministers to discuss concerns over the way the system is regulated. As a result of the many constituent emails I have received, I have argued for clear and strong protections for the environment. From my meetings, I am convinced that the Government takes the issue seriously, while recognising that shale gas and oil extraction presents an excellent opportunity for an affordable and secure supply of energy.
The regulations will offer strict protections for National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites. Gas cannot be extracted at depths of less than 1,200 metres below these areas, and the Government is committed to banning fracking wells and drills at the surface of National Parks, in order to safeguard the landscapes of these beautiful areas. Consultations will start on this shortly, and cannot be granted for drilling without an environmental impact assessment, and operators are required to monitor the level of methane in groundwater. It is for this reason that I continue to support fracking.
The Government has recently launched a consultation that proposed extending the surface ban to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). I am pleased that the Government understands that it is critical for the industry to have the confidence of the public if it is to flourish in the long term.
The Government has the right protections in place to ensure that fracking can go ahead safely without risk to our most beautiful and important natural sites. We do have to acknowledge that fracking can provide us with real energy security. Scientists have warned about the long term effects of us not having enough energy to supply homes, unless we diverse our energy mix. Therefore, while I am mindful of people’s concerns, and will continue to represent them, I do think it is important for us to achieve energy security.