Wednesday 14 November 2018 10:56 pm

Government shale gas commissioner slams ’emotional’ narrative around fracking

The government's commissioner for shale gas yesterday condemned the “narrative of fear around fracking” as she called for a more rational debate on the nascent industry.

In a letter to editors, former Labour MP Natascha Engel argued that the current media coverage of earthquakes near the site of Cuadrilla's horizontal shale exploration well in Preston New Road in Lancashire is “highly emotional”.

Engel said: “I have become alarmed at the effect that some of the local and national media coverage on fracking and earthquakes is having on people.”

She said the earthquake coverage was “almost constant” but argued that the earthquakes cased by fracking were “not what normal people understand by the word”.

She said a tremor over one mile underground reading 1.1 magnitude on the surface is “not only something that can’t be felt, it is something that would never be reported if it was caused by anything other than fracking”.

Engel said that industries such as quarrying, geothermal energy exploration and engineering regularly caused similar seismic events which are not reported on.

She said the traffic light system relating to fracking, which was applied to the sector after tremors were recorded off Blackpool in 2011, set an extremely strict standard, so that if a tremor of 0.5 is detected, work has to pause.

“It was never intended to stop the industry but rather to reassure people,” she said.

“If we stopped all industries that caused 0.5 magnitude surface tremors, there wouldn’t be a house, hospital, school or road built,” she said.

Energy spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, former energy secretary Ed Davey, said: “We have to operate on the basis of evidence – and the regulations and traffic light system I introduced to halt fracking when there are earth tremors were based on a major study and recommendations from eminent scientists and engineers.

“It’s not surprising that the government’s new cheer leader for fracking doesn’t appear to like those tough regulations, but nothing has changed since they were first introduced and the need for a cautious approach hasn’t changed.”