A number of people have contacted me about their concerns about the possible weakening of regulations that protect the public and environment from earthquakes caused by fracking.
I would like to assure them that there is a very low risk that shale gas extraction could cause any noticeable tremor at the surface. Operators must now use all available geological information to assess the location of faults before wells are drilled and monitor seismic activity before during and after operations.
The Oil & Gas Authority regulates on-site micro seismicity using a traffic light system. If activity passes a very low, precautionary threshold, it is immediately paused. This threshold, a 'red light' in the traffic light system, is set at 0.5 on the Richter scale, equivalent to less ground movement than you would feel from a passing car. For context, according to the British Geological Survey, we have on average 166 naturally occurring events of magnitude 2.9 or below each year in the UK, most of which go unnoticed.
My view on this is clear. We should follow the science. If our regulators and scientific bodies recommend that a higher level is consistent with sensible environmental protections then I have no objection to an increased threshold.
The UK has world leading environmental regulations and with these safeguards in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored. However, I shall continue to press the point about my concerns about the proposed weakening of planning rules with regards to shale gas extraction. I have been making a robust case for guidelines and restrictions on development and the importance of ensuring that we keep decision-making at a local level.