UK must learn from US fracking says review

Posted on 28th January 2015

The UK should look to lessons learned in the United States to inform its shale gas policy, according to a new review published this week.

The authors argue that in order to avoid a number of environmental pitfalls, shale gas extraction – commonly referred to as fracking – should be led by the growing body of evidence emerging from experiences in the US.

Undertaken by Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy the study recommends several guidelines for the responsible development of fracking.

They place particular importance on strict monitoring and enforcement policies, reporting of chemicals used in the process, and public participation in the decision making process.

The report also outlined a number of potential environment and health risks.

With a number of harmful chemicals both used and released in the fracking process, problems relating to air pollution and water contamination have been experienced in the States.

The ecological impact of fracking has also been called into question. Covering a large surface area and requiring a great deal of infrastructure, shale gas sites can lead to substantial habitat loss, degradation, and damage to vegetation and fauna.

Professor Michael Depledge contributed to the review and believes fracking could have far reaching effects on wellbeing:

We know that the beauty of our landscapes is vitally important for both tourism and the wellbeing of local residents. Shale gas extraction can lead to the destruction of forests and farmland and requires very large processing facilities. These structures are far from inconspicuous and bring significant consequences for the character and beauty of our land.”

The report also highlighted the impact that short-term economic gains can bring to small towns, often changing the social dynamic and creating sustainability problems once a site is exhausted and ‘boom’ times are over.

Recently, government ministers in the United Kingdom began granting licenses that will enable companies to begin initial exploration for shale gas. This research highlights the concern that exists in the academic community and the need for decisions to be based on solid scientific evidence.

This study, Considerations for the development of shale gas in the United Kingdom is published in the journal Science of the Total Environment and is available here

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