MP urges robust regulation over shale gas

FYLDE MP Mark Menzies has urged the Government to ensure there is a “gold standard” of regulation should shale gas extraction go ahead in Lancashire.

Findings have been published from the first independent study by the British Geological Survey, of the potential volume of shale gas in the Bowland Basin and beyond, which covers 11 counties in the north of England.

Scientists have estimated on a central scenario that there is likely to be some 40 trillion cubic metres (1,300 trillion cubic feet) of shale gas in the ground in this area.

It is expected that the amount of gas available for commercial recovery would be substantially lower than the total amount of gas because of technical and commercial limitations on the level of extraction.

Following the announcement, the Government unveiled a package of reforms including new planning guidelines for sites, and a consultation on tax allowances for exploration projects.

A number of community benefits have also been brought forward by the industry.

Companies which hold licenses to explore for shale gas have pledged to engage with communities early, prior to any application for planning permission, and to provide community benefits in areas where shale is commercially extracted.

These will include £100,000 for communities situated near each exploratory (hydraulically fracked) well, as well as one per cent of revenues from every production site.

Mr Menzies said: “While I understand there would be a community benefit fund for local people should shale gas extraction be allowed to go ahead, it is imperative that the lion’s share of any revenue goes to those living in the immediate vicinity of any well sites.

“However, if drilling were to take place in Fylde, I remain inflexible on the point that there must be a gold standard of regulation reached before any potential move to the extraction phase, which should include regular on the ground inspections of well sites.

“I called for the setting up of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil to ensure robust monitoring of the industry.

“I am pleased that has now been set up and is working hard to bring about a tough regime of measures which must be met should extraction go ahead.

“But it is vital regulators from that office also conduct regular public engagement exercises to answer any questions from the community.”

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