AT concern over Fracking

Fracking safeguards not fit for purpose

Anglers are the latest group to express concern over the likely impacts of the controversial fracking technique used to extract underground supplies of shale gas. Fracking uses large amounts of water and presents a risk of contamination of ground and surface water. In many parts of the UK, rivers are already either over-abstracted or are failing to meet good ecological status, and many groundwater supplies are over-exploited. There are also concerns over the lack of robust regulation governing fracking and the need for the Environment Agency to become the lead regulator rather than the Health & Safety Executive as at present.

The Angling Trust has been consulting its sister organisations in the USA where fracking has been a live issue for some while. In a position paper published this week the Trust concludes:

'Fracking may be able to contribute to the UK’s energy needs at some point in the future but the Angling Trust, along with other organisations such as RSPB and WWF, contends that until the current environmental regulatory regime is made fit for purpose and that the questions over water supply are resolved then fracking should not be allowed to proceed.'

Key Points
Key Points from the Trust’s paper include:

  • Water Abstraction
    Fracking requires large amounts of water to pump into the ground with a mixture of sand and chemicals in order to frack the rocks to release gas. Estimates from Trout Unlimited in America place this anywhere between 300,000 to 3.6 million gallons per well. The Angling Trust seeks assurances from government that fracking will not be permitted unless sustainable supplies of water are developed, such as new reservoirs, to avoid taking water from already-depleted rivers and ground waters.
  • Water Pollution
    Fracking has the potential to pollute both ground and surface waters either by the integrity of the well being breached, inappropriate treatment, disposal of the returning fluid or leaks of the fluid when transported away from site. Such operations should be licensed in accordance with the European Waste Directive and the Environment Agency’s permitting process for discharge to ground water.
  • Regulation
    The Environment Agency should now be the lead regulator instead of the Health & Safety Executive and the industry must be made aware that it will have to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (which requires that there should be no deterioration of any water bodies) and the Ground Water Directive & Mining Waste Directive. Each site must be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment with the government amending the Town & Country Planning Act accordingly.

Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said:

'We are gravely concerned about any further pressure on already threatened water resources at a time when many rivers run dry in the summer. There is also a real risk of pollution of surface and ground water that will need tough regulation. The Angling Trust will be submitting our concerns to the government and making sure anglers' voices are heard on this issue. Fish Legal solicitors are ready to fight for compensation for any of its member clubs and fisheries that might be affected.'

National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter added:

'We are particularly concerned that the control and monitoring of this new industry will ‘slip through the gaps’ between regulators due to it not being adequately aligned to present environmental protection legislation. The Angling Trust is also seeking assurance from government that companies licensed to carry out fracking operations must guarantee their ability to finance remediation in the event of any contamination of ground water. The current system is simply not fit for purpose and it would be irresponsible to allow fracking to proceed until effective controls are in place.'