Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the UK is underway for the first time since 2011. The Environment Agency is committed to making sure it meets the highest environmental standards.
We are often asked whether we support development of the industry. As the independent regulator, our role is not to be for or against fracking but to ensure the right regulatory controls are in place.
The environmental controls here are some of the best in the world. That’s because over the last 5 years, our teams of geologists, water scientists and air quality experts have been working on research projects, nationally and internationally, to help inform our approach to regulating the industry. We have learned lessons from the extraction of shale gas in North America to make sure we can prevent pollution. For example we do not allow the use of chemicals in the fracturing fluid that are hazardous to groundwater. Also tanks storing waste fracking fluid must be sealed to prevent leaks. The underground environment is monitored to ensure that the fractures are only made within the shale layer of rock.
All these controls are set out in the permit which is enforced rigorously by trained officers. We granted Cuadrilla these permits only when we were satisfied that operations could happen in a manner that protects people and the environment and after consultation with the public.
The Environment Agency has over 20 years’ experience in regulating a wide range of both new and established industries. Our teams have a detailed knowledge of the local environment, live locally and are passionate about protecting their communities and environment. They are on site today to ensure Cuadrilla is complying with the legal conditions in their permit, and will be on site regularly throughout operations.
We also have a monitoring programme to help us understand the quality of the air and water around the site and identify any changes. This is in addition to joint monitoring audits with our partner regulators, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority.
We understand the public concern around shale gas and are committed to keeping people informed. We have set up dedicated web pages for people to access information on our regulatory work.
Information on Preston New Road Site: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/onshore-oil-and-gas/information-on-cuadrillas-preston-new-road-site/
Onshore oil and gas regulation page: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/onshore-oil-and-gas/onshore-oil-and-gas-regulation-information-page/
Here you will also find a range of factsheets answering many of the questions that we have been receiving from local residents.
You will also be able to read further updates on this blog site over the next couple of months, so you can see how our team is protecting the environment.