Friday, 20 September 2013

RSPB's fracking objection

The media hiatus in the fracking for shale gas frenzy - which graced the front pages for several weeks during the summer - has left room for some more reasoned debate and comment.

The RSPB, for instance, has waded into the issue by lodging objections to proposals to drill for shale gas and oil in Lancashire and West Sussex, citing that regulations are inadequate to ensure water, landscapes and wildlife are protected.

These are the first formal objections to fracking from the RSPB. The drilling proposal at Singleton, Lancashire, is less than a mile from an internationally important area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans.

The society is also protesting against drilling at Balcombe, West Sussex - the focus of large summer protests - on the grounds that no environmental impact assessment has been carried out.

In both written objections the charity also says that increasing oil and gas use will reduce the UK's chances of meeting climate change targets.

Harry Huyton, head of climate and energy policy at the RSPB, said: "Balcombe hit the headlines as the battleground in the debate over fracking. The public there are rightly concerned about the impact this will have on their countryside.

"We have looked closely at the rules in place to police drilling for shale gas, and they are simply not robust enough to ensure that our water, our landscapes and our wildlife are safe."

Huyton also said that Cuadrilla's proposed operations in Lancashire could damage populations of geese and swans. "This area is protected by European law because it is so valuable for wildlife and the company has done nothing to investigate what damage their activities could do to it," he claimed.

The RSPB says that Government figures show the potential for 5,000 sites and a total of up to 100,000 wells in the north of England.

"The idea that these will have a benign impact on the countryside is very difficult to believe," said Huyton.

"This is all in too much of a hurry – the regulations simply aren't in place," he added. "If Cuadrilla did their assessments and found there wasn't a serious concern, we'd accept that. But no assessments have been done."

The group's other main objection is that a push for shale gas will divert funds and attention from the UK's previously stated goal of having an electricity system almost completely powered by ‘clean' energy by 2030.

This piece was originally scheduled for publication on 20 September 2013 but the Lighthouse Keeper was unable to access his blog due to Chinese internet restrictions whilst on assignment in Beijing and so has been published retrospectively

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