Ministers are committed to exploration for shale gas and oil, and believe the country cannot ignore the opportunity to extract this domestic energy while securing jobs and investment. To give the shale industry the best possible chance of success in the future, the Government will ensure safety, as it does with other energy sources, and robust protection of the environment.
The Government has made sure the Infrastructure Bill put in place a clear regulatory regime with strong environmental protections include reassurances on:
This includes further protections for groundwater. Fracking will not take place within protected groundwater source areas and legislation will be brought forward later this year to set out these definitions in law. The Government's approach is based on the advice of the Environment Agency. Ministers are also carefully considering whether to make water companies statutory consultees in respect of any applications.
The new measures will also place a duty on the Secretary of State, when issuing a “well consent” - as required by an onshore licence for England or Wales - to impose conditions that prohibit hydraulic fracturing at depths of less than 1000 metres. In addition, the Infrastructure Bill strengthens the requirement for the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the likely impact of onshore petroleum production.
The proposals for underground access aim to strike a balance between the legitimate concerns of landowners with the benefits shale gas can bring to the community and the economy. The Government has therefore ensured that consent will not be given for shale gas operations that occur at depths of less than 1 kilometre underground.
It is important to remember that many other industries already access underground land in order to lay cables and build infrastructure such as water pipes and tunnels. These are much closer to the surface than the access concerned here.
You can find out more information and the safeguards in place here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking