Gas extraction probe urged over water pollution fears


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The Independent Online

Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, is demanding a full government investigation into controversial “fracking” technology used to dislodge natural gas trapped in rocks after a new report linked the practice to water pollution for the first time.

Mr Greatrex will table a series of questions in parliament today urging the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, to step up the government’s investigation of hydraulic fracturing after reading the report by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In his first question, he will ask: “Further to the article in The Independent on 14 December 2011, what assessment has he made of the report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency into the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water pollution; and if he will make a statement?”

The Labour MP will then ask to know “what assessment he has made of the link between hydraulic fracturing and water pollution, what plans he has to investigate the links between hydraulic fracturing and water pollution and when he last met with the UK Environment Agency to discuss the link between hydraulic fracturing and water pollution”.

Jean Lambert, the Green London MEP, also called for the government to step up its investigation.

“If the government has any intention in following through on its pledge to be the ‘greenest government ever’, it will take serious consideration of the EPA’s evidence and take steps to introduce, at least, a moratorium on new shale gas exploration without delay,” Ms Lambert said.

The EPA report comes at a crucial time for the Government as it considers whether to allow fracking – a technique in which sand, chemicals and water are blasted into shale rock to release the gas – to become commonplace in the UK. Cuadrilla Resources – which was the UK’s sole active fracking operator and which numbers former BP chief executive Lord Browne among its directors – shut its operations in summer after earthquakes were reported in the Blackpool area.

An independent report into the tremors concluded it was “highly probable” that fracking caused 50 earthquakes in the first few months of the year. The government is expected to rule early next year whether Cuadrilla can resume fracking and whether other operators can open new sites.