[posted by Adam Vaughan on The Guardian, 24th July 2018]
Shale gas firm Cuadrilla has been given the green light by the government to start fracking at a well in Lancashire, after the energy minister issued the first fracking permit since a new regulatory regime was introduced.
Fracking is expected to begin in late August or early September at the Preston New Road site, between Blackpool and Preston, which has been the focus of 18 months of protests since work on the site started.
The energy minister said shale gas was an important potential new energy source, and she was satisfied Cuadrilla had met the government’s conditions for granting a hydraulic fracturing permit.
“Our world-class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities,” Claire Perry said.
The formal approval is the ministerial rubber-stamping of earlier checks by government bodies including the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, but marks a milestone for an industry that has been plagued by delays.
Campaigners vowed to fight the fracking industry, which critics have said risks air and water pollution, and could exacerbate climate change.
Liz Hutchins, the director of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s taken the industry seven long years to just get to this point.
“In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it. There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear.”
The firm said it was very pleased with the government’s decision, calling it a testament to “our strong track record of running a world-class shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulation.”
The government granted the permit on the condition that one of the project’s backers, Spirit Energy, a joint venture between Centrica and the Norwegian firm Bayerngas Norge, submits accounts for the last financial year or transfers £557,000 into an escrow account.
The Treasury deemed Cuadrilla to have adequate financial resilience to undertake the work.
An application to frack a second well at Preston New Road is expected to be submitted shortly, and fracking both wells is expected to take three to four months.