The Government has been accused of "appalling complacency" after it emerged that not a single minister has met with the Environment Agency's experts to discuss the hugely controversial gas exploration technique known as fracking.
Despite earthquakes in Blackpool, growing concerns about poisoning of the water supply and demonstrations around the world, the Government still appears not to be taking the potential dangers of fracking seriously enough, critics said. At the weekend, anti-fracking demonstrations were held in London, Paris, Copenhagen and Bulgaria.
The extent of the Government's failure to prioritise the issue came in the answer to a parliamentary question tabled following The Independent's revelations last month that the US environment agency had established the first clear link between fracking and water poisoning.
The shadow energy minister, Tom Greatrex, said the Department of Energy and Climate Change was taking a "shockingly complacent approach" after learning that its ministers had not met anybody from the Environment Agency to discuss the technique. Professor Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at the think-tank Chatham House, found the lack of face-to-face contact between DECC ministers and the EA "appalling".
"This is incredible, ridiculous really," said Professor Stevens, who gave evidence to an inquiry by the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on the topic last year. "It's common sense that if a select committee has done a report like this the relevant ministers would go to the EA to get their reaction to it."
In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a mixture of sand, chemicals and water is blasted into shale rocks to fracture them and release oil and gas. Vast reserves of shale gas were found in the Blackpool area last year, which can be extracted only by fracking. DECC is reviewing the report into the Blackpool earthquakes before deciding whether to allow production at the site to continue.