MPs approve fracking regulations

16 Dec 2015 | Comment

MPs have approved regulations which will allow fracking to take place beneath a National Park, World Heritage site or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The regulations have been passed under s4B of the Infrastructure Act 2015. They provide that such areas are amongst the list of “protected sites”, meaning drilling can only take place at deep level. It will not be possible to sink a well in a National Park area, but horizontal drilling from outside will be permissible as long as it takes place more than 1,200m below the surface.

The decision is controversial as in January the government had promised that fracking would not be permitted in National Parks. What has not received the same media attention is that areas which are sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) are not included within the list of protected areas at all, despite earlier government promises that they would be. This means that wells could be sunk and drilling done at shallower levels at such sites.

The vote on the regulations has been controversial as it was carried out without a debate and on paper.

In light of the greater powers devolved to Scotland and Wales on energy [see our blog from November] it seems likely this is going to be of concern in England only.

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