Exclusive: Ministers slammed over fracking

Earthquakes, poisoning fears, demonstrations, but still no top-level talks on suspect gas technique

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 have not met anybody from the Environment Agency to discuss the technique.

DECC is headed by Chris Huhne, Secretary of State, and Charles Hendry is the Energy minister.

Mr Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen & Hamilton West, said: "It is astonishing that no UK minister has met with the Environment Agency to discuss fracking and shale gas."

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.

"I am appalled that DECC ministers didn't go to talk to somebody on the environmental side of things," added Professor Stevens, who in 2009 won the Opec Award for his contribution to oil and energy research.

In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a mixture of sand, chemicals and water is blasted into shale rocks at high speed to fracture them and release the oil and gas they contain. Vast reserves of shale gas were found in the Blackpool area last year, which can be extracted only by fracking.

The MPs' report concluded last year that "on balance, there should not be a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing". However, the committee had heard evidence on the environmental dangers of fracking, and added that "DECC needs to monitor closely the current exploratory activity in the Bowland Shale [around Blackpool] in order to both assess the likely impact of large-scale shale gas extraction in the UKand also to promote public confidence in the regulation of this activity".

Operations at the UK's sole fracking site were halted after an investigation concluded in November that they had probably caused about 50 earthquakes in the Blackpool area.

Meanwhile, a study by the Environmental Protection Agency in the US last month linked the practice with water pollution for the first time.

DECC is reviewing the report into the Blackpool earthquakes before deciding whether to allow production at the site to continue. It is also considering whether to impose a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the UK.

Mr Greatrex tabled a question in Parliament, to which Mr Hendry replied: "Neither I nor other DECC ministers have met with representatives of the Environment Agency to discuss issues relating to hydraulic fracturing."

A DECC spokesman said: "Charles Hendry is regularly updated on the latest developments in shale gas exploration... The department's officials are working closely on these matters with the agencies regulating environmental and safety matters."

Dr Robert Gross, director of Imperial College's centre for energy policy, said: "The speed of shale gasexploration is running ahead of our knowledge of the risks, especially in America. I think DECC need to get a better handle on all the issuesaround fracking."

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape