Shale fracking in the UK should be put on hold as its effect on health and the environment is uncertain, according to a committee of MPs.
In a report published last week, The Environmental Risks of Fracking, the Environmental Audit Committee concluded the process would be incompatible with UK climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health.
The committee’s report warned only a very small fraction of UK shale reserves can be safely burned to keep global temperatures below two degrees. It added there are still considerable uncertainties about the impact on groundwater quality, air quality, health and biodiversity.
It also concluded that continually tightening carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act will have significantly curtailed the scope for fossil fuel energy by the time shale gas is likely to be commercially viable on a large scale.
Committee chairwoman and Labour MP Joan Walley said: “Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely. There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health.”
The committee also said the UK government was trying to rush through changes to trespass laws that would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission.
The cross-party committee called for changes to the government’s Infrastructure Bill. It wants the proposed changes to trespass law - that would grant companies automatic right of access to land at depth - to be removed.
It says that even if a national moratorium on shale drilling in the UK is not accepted there should be an outright ban on fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other special sites.
The committee says that licences and permits must not be issued if commercial operators cannot demonstrate sufficient resources and insurances to cover full liability in event of pollution incidents.
Full containment of methane must be mandated in all fracking permits and permissions and a minimum separation distance between the shales being fracked and underground aquifers should be defined and mandated.
It called for safety monitoring of fracking wells to be independent and include spot checks and audits and said companies must disclose all the chemicals used in shale gas exploration.