Fylde MP asks Secretary of State for assurances on shale gas regulations

Fylde MP Mark Menzies asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what powers the Environment Agency has to close down shale gas wells that are in breach of environmental regulations.

The Member of Parliament has consistently argued that companies drilling for shale gas should be subject to stringent restrictions.

He raised the issue as a matter of urgency with the Secretary of State during Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions in Parliament.

Mr Menzies said: “The Secretary of State will be aware that consent has been given for the first horizontal shale gas site at Preston New Road in my constituency.

“Will she assure me that the Environment Agency will conduct immediate on-the-spot inspections, and that many of them will be unannounced?

“What powers does the Environment Agency have to close down a site if it finds it to be in breach of regulations?”

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replied: “I am very happy to reassure my honourable friend that we have a robust regulatory framework in place to ensure that shale exploration is carried out in a safe, sustainable and environmentally sound manner.

“The Environment Agency can undertake announced and unannounced inspections, and if there is any breach of a permit condition or a serious risk to people or the environment, it can take a number of enforcement actions, including the immediate ceasing of operations.”

Following the session, Mr Menzies said it was vital that the issue is at the top of the Government’s list of priorities.

He added: “While the Secretary of State highlighted that the UK already has robust regulations to deal with the shale gas industry, I have been clear that more must be done to certify that this is the case.

“I am pleased that the Government has confirmed that the Environment Agency has the power to shut down shale gas wells and to conduct unannounced inspections, which is something that I have pressed the Government on for several years.

“It is essential that the Environment Agency now uses these powers and I have written to its Chief Executive, Sir James Bevan, to stress the importance of exercising its authority proactively.”

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