CIEH expresses disappointment at UK Government decision to restart fracking

22 September 2022, Ciaran Donaghy

Following the announcement from the new Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg that the UK Government have lifted the moratorium on fracking, the CIEH has expressed its disappointment and urged the government to reverse their decision.

During her leadership campaign, Liz Truss promised to “follow the science” with respect to fracking, and while the government are relying on the recently published review by the British Geological Survey, the BGS freely admit that “little has changed” in terms of the science since the 2019 moratorium on fracking.

The environmental health impacts of fracking are well documented, with CIEH examining the evidence into the process as far back as 2014. Fracking is a water intensive process, with figures from the US estimating that fracking used between 70 billion and 140 billion gallons of water extract oil and shale gas from 35,000 wells. Furthermore, peer-reviewed scientific studies show that fracking waste has been responsible for contaminating waterways, and even residential drinking water.

Fracking also releases high amounts of methane gas, a greenhouse gas that traps 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide and as such is incredibly detrimental in the fight against climate change.

The new Chancellor and former BEIS Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been quoted as saying that fracking “won’t materially affect the wholesale market price…UK producers won’t sell
shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities”. Furthermore, fracking in the UK is impossible on any meaningful scale, according to the CEO of the UK’s first and largest fracking company, Cuadrilla. Many Tory MPs have also expressed outrage at the plans amidst concerns that the government are trying to overcome community resistance to fracking by “buying them off”, so it is clear that the UK government are acting in contrast to the views of many within their own party, including the current Chancellor.

Fracking is detrimental to air and water quality, creates significant noise pollution, emits high volumes of greenhouse gases, and cannot produce amounts of shale gas so as to have any meaningful impact on either the UK’s energy security or household energy bills. Therefore, CIEH has urged the Government to reinstate the moratorium on fracking, and to focus instead on investing in energy efficient measures to reduce energy bills and tackle climate change.

Gary McFarlane, Director at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

“While we have been anticipating this announcement, we remain very disappointed that the UK government has not heeded our calls to retain the moratorium on fracking and would urge them to reverse this decision.

Fracking is damaging to environmental health, with our own research highlighting several concerns to public health including impact on air quality, possible groundwater contamination and noise pollution. Further studies have found that fracking is responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and is also incredibly unpopular with the British public.

While we acknowledge that ensuring the UK has sufficient energy security as we go into the winter months is crucial, it is clear that fracking will not achieve this. Apart from the direct environmental impacts fracking will create if pursued, I cannot see how this policy in any way aligns with the critical need to decarbonise our energy supplies. It is a misplaced and ill-judged decision in my view. CIEH would urge the UK government to pursue other measures, such as greater investment in renewables and energy efficiency, in order to meet the UK’s energy demands.

Lifting the moratorium on fracking risks public health, will not materially impact household energy bills, and threatens the UK’s position as a leader in the fight against climate change”

Listen to Gary's insights on this issue on LBC News.

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