At the beginning of the month, the government announced that it would end its support for fracking in England.
A report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), in conjunction with four independent studies, concluded that ‘it is not currently possible to
accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations’.
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the heavy process of pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to break up shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.
It was initially thought of as being a greener way to access energy for the country and still takes place in America, Canada and China. However, many EU countries banned it earlier in the timeline with France being the first EU country to make the decision in 2011.
Since fracking began in Lancashire in January 2017 at a site called Preston New Road, protestors have determinedly tried to stop the operation and have received support from people across the country, including a number of celebrities and MPs. Pressure was ramped up when, in August this year, an earthquake that hit a magnitude of 2.9 occurred.
It was this that forced the government to take a closer look at the detrimental effects that fracking has, and in conjunction with an uprising and awakening to the climate emergency, the decision was made to ‘pause’ fracking operations in England.
Note that the government hasn’t actually ‘banned’ fracking, it has simply jumped up onto the fence and said that until evidence has been provided that it can be carried out safely, it will stop all exploratory work.
When taking Preston New Road as a case study, the report said in the executive summary: ‘For future operations, the possibility of larger events could not be excluded and these could cause damage and disturbance unacceptable under the current BEIS policy guidance. The methods for predicting event maximum and magnitude need further testing and cannot be viewed as reliable for PNR’ (Preston New Road).
Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration must be carried out safely. In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.
‘After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community. For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”
This is obviously fantastic news, not only for those whose lives were being disrupted by the literally earth-shattering process of fracking, but for all those who have campaigned long and hard for the government to invest more in less destructive and less harmful methods of clean energy production.
Whether this is another government promise in the run up to a general election that will be backtracked on once we have new leaders (or the same old ones), who knows. But for now, a victory dance can be danced and a precedent has been set.