Fracking (shale gas exploration)

Fracking, or shale gas exploration, is a gas extraction method involving the hydraulic fracturing of rock to extract trapped gas. A number of sites across the UK have been identified as potential fracking locations, despite widespread environmental concerns.

Chancellor George Osbourne has recently given his support for the controversial shale gas extraction method known as fracking but UK residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the possible  negative effects of the process on their health and local area.


What is fracking?

Fracking is a process of extracting gas buried deep below the ground and trapped within rock. It involves the ‘hydraulic fracturing’ of rock to extract the trapped gas – the rock is drilled into and a fluid is injected into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture the rock. Drilling companies believe the UK is sitting on huge shale gas resources, opening up the opportunity for extensive fracking throughout the UK.

Yet fracking may result in increased noise, potential land instability, earth tremors and earthquakes, loss of enjoyment of land, pollution and potential medical issues. Hugh James’s team of expert environmental solicitors are experienced at dealing with noise complaints, odour nuisances and pollution nuisance and are well placed to deal with the issues that can result from fracking.

Shale gas exploration testing is due to recommence in Lancashire in 2014, having been suspended after causing a minor earthquake. Fracking is also being seriously explored in Wales, due to significant reserves within shale rock and coal seams. Test drilling has already occurred in South Wales for other ‘unconventional gas’ extraction, leading to worries that this could soon lead to fracking exploration, and Coastal Oil & Gas have already announced plans to drill to test for shale gas at Llandow in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Fracking claim types

  • Noise pollution
    Fracking requires extremely large supplies of water – over 4 million gallons are required to crack the rock – meaning supplies will need to be shipped on and off the site, increasing noise levels locally and potentially congesting roads.Hugh James’s environmental solicitors are specialist lawyers who fight for local residents suffering from noise nuisance at their homes. We represent clients on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis in the pursuit of injunctions to prevent the nuisance from occurring in the future, and compensation to recognise the interference and disruption suffered in the past.
  • Air and odour pollution
    It is believed that fracking can potentially lead to ‘fugitive emissions’ of methane into the environment, as well increased emissions caused by the use of drilling rigs and pumps, and vehicles to transport the necessary water and chemicals to and from the site.
  • Health and medical complaints
    The fluid used in fracking contains a large number of chemicals – those used in the United States consist of a number of known carcinogens and toxins, including lead, uranium and formaldehyde – opening up the potential for health impacts if handled incorrectly.The US’s Breast Cancer Action group opposes fracking due to the use of chemicals linked to breast cancer, and believe that not enough is known about the health impacts of fracking to confirm the full scale of potential harm.

    Hugh James’s solicitors have experience in dealing with personal injury caused as a result of environmental issues. If you believe your health has been negatively impacted as a result of fracking, Hugh James can help you pursue a claim.

  • Water pollution complaints
    Water UK, the organisation representing the UK’s water and wastewater utility companies, has expressed its concerns that fracking could lead to drinking water contamination, believing the processes involved affect the public water supply. It also warned that water companies may not be able to effectively clean up the large amounts of contaminated water generated through hydraulic fracturing.The organisation is worried that fracking could allow methane gasses, currently confined within shale rock, to contaminate drinking water aquifers where they sit above shale gas reserves. Additionally, the chemical mixture used in the fracking process has the potential to enter aquifers through the fractures created, or by the poor handling of waste water on the surface.

    Hugh James has a team of environmental law experts who have had unrivalled success in applying the law to protect the environment.

  • Ground instability and earthquakes
    Environmentalists also predict that fracking can trigger earth tremors or earthquakes. In 2011, a magnitude 2.2 earthquake occurred just 3km from a fracking site in Lancashire (BGS), leading to the process being halted, and further worries as to the dangers of fracking.
  • Loss of open space and decreasing property values
    Fracking can also lead to the loss of open space, reduced property value, and loss of enjoyment of your home. This may include issues such as not being able to sit out in the garden, not being able to open windows and doors in the summer and so on.Despite bans and moratoria on fracking being introduced in a number of countries, including France, Swizerland, and selected states and territories in the USA, Australia and Canada, the UK government is keen to develop fracking as a way of tapping into low cost energy. Yet it has the potential to bring misery to local residents and reduce their quality of life. Hugh James’s environmental solicitors are here to assist residents with group action claims and seek any compensation due.

Hugh James's environmental law experience

We are one of the UK’s leading specialists in the field of environmental law and one of only a handful of firms in the country with the knowledge and expertise to successfully conduct environmental claims. We represent large communities right through to the individual with clients located throughout England and Wales. See our environmental nuisance map.

All environmental claimant compensation cases are dealt with by a dedicated team of environmental solicitors, headed by partner Neil Stockdale. Our environmental personnel keep up to date with legal developments that affect the work and together we have built up many years of experience in the field.



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