Special Digest


12/03/2014

Are We Fit To Frack?

The RSPB and other organisations (ANGLING TRUST, NATIONAL TRUST , SALMON & TROUT ASSOCIATION, and THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS, WILDFOWL & WETLANDS TRUST (WWT) ) have published a report on fracking entitled “Are We Fit To Frack?”

The report’s summary indicates we are not fit, and that fracking is incompatible with climate change and environment protection objectives.

However, the report does make recommendations as to how this risk could be reduced by better regulation, which clearly is not there at the moment.

The report has been seen by the media as wanting to ban fracking near wildlife sites, but there is a strionger message which the report dare not say explicitly - Fracking is likely to contravene international law regarding climate change objectives, and is likely to have harmful effects on the environment. These organisations must know by now very well that the government will NOT implement improved regulation. In the view of Fracking Digest this calls for a braver call - a complete ban on fracking anywhere in the UK.

The report summary findings -

CLIMATE CHANGE

The UK has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

Critical to meeting this objective will be abiding by the legally binding framework, established by the 2008 Climate Change Act, for reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% (over 1990 levels) by 2050. This will require a step change in the way we source, manage and use energy. The Committee on Climate Change, for example, has recommended that UK electricity emissions should be reduced from the current level of 531 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (531 g CO2/kWh) to 50 by 2030. Our review of the current evidence base suggests that shale gas exploitation is not compatible with these goals for the following reasons:

1. The carbon intensity of electricity from shale gas is higher than electricity from renewable alternatives.

2. Methane leaked during shale gas extraction could increase emissions further.

3. Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change requires fossil fuels to remain unexploited.

LAND USE AND WILDLIFE

The shale gas industry will require land for the construction of well pads and associated infrastructure, which could cause the loss or fragmentation of important habitats for wildlife.

WILDLIFE DISTURBANCE

Shale gas drilling activity, construction noise and the increased movements of vehicles and people are all likely to have adverse impacts on our wildlife.

“The projected growth rate of the shale gas industry in the UK could result in a significant level of disturbance for sensitive species.”

WATER RESOURCES

Water is vital for wildlife and humans, and UK water resources are under constant demand. The shale gas industry could add even more pressure.

“There may not be enough water available to meet the requirements for hydraulic fracturing in water-stressed areas.”

WATER POLLUTION

There are many sources of water pollution in the UK that are detrimental to wildlife and people. Shale gas extraction is likely to add to the problem.

“Once contamination of groundwater has occurred, the clean-up is difficult and may take many years.”


THE REPORT'S RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Avoid sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones.
2. Make Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) mandatory for shale gas extraction proposals.
3. Require shale gas operators to pay for a world-class regulatory regime.
4. Prevent taxpayers from bearing the costs of accidental pollution.
5. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
6. Require all hydraulic fracturing operations to operate under  a Groundwater Permit.
7. Make sure Best Available Techniques (BAT) for mine waste management are rigorously defined and regularly reviewed.
8. Ensure full transparency of the shale gas industry and its environmental impact.
9. Ensure monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is  rigorous and independent.
10. Minimise and monitor methane emissions.

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