Complacency fury over gas

Fylde MP Mark Menzies
Fylde MP Mark Menzies
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The Government has been blasted for “shocking” complacency after it was claimed ministers aren’t taking controversial shale gas drilling seriously enough.

The process – commonly known as fracking – has been suspended on the Fylde coast after a series of earthquakes hit the Fylde coast last year.

And it’s now emerged not a single minister has met with the Environment Agency’s experts to discuss the process.

Shadow energy minister Tom Greartex has slammed the Department of Energy and Climate Change for taking a “shockingly complacent approach” – and local anti-fracking campaigners have echoed his feelings.

But Fylde’s MP Mark Menzies has today refuted the allegations and described Mr Greartex’s comments as “very disappointing”.

Shale gas company Cuadrilla Resources has three sites in Mr Menzies’ constituency in Singleton, Weeton and Westby, and he said: “Firstly the Minister for Energy (Charles Hendry) has visited a shale gas site with me in Fylde and the Environment Agency were present so while there may not have been a formal meeting in Westminster there has been contact.

“Secondly the Environment Agency is part of DEFRA who are responsible for the environment so would naturally report primarily to DEFRA rather than DECC.

“Both departments will, of course, be in contact over these issues and treating them with the utmost importance.

“On a personal level, I am meeting with the Environment Agency today and did so before Christmas to discuss shale gas and other issues. To say there is complacency is simply and clearly wrong.”

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Cuadrilla Resources admitted it was “highly probable” fracking – where water and sand are pumped underground at high speed to release gas from rocks - had caused the earthquakes which struck Poulton last year.

The DECC is currently reviewing a report on the earthquakes before deciding whether the practice can resume, and is also looking at imposing a moratorium on fracking in the UK – something the Green Party has called for.

Philip Mitchell, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Green Party, said: “The government has allowed these technique to be introduced into the UK long before the full impact of that policy could be properly understood.

“I’m concerned that few, if any, government advisers would have had sufficient exposure to the US experience to fully understand it themselves.”

And John Bailie, from Concerned Residents of Poulton (CROP), said: “I think the government at every level needs to take it much more seriously. There are a lot of members of the community who are increasingly concerned at what’s going on.”

On Saturday, thousands of campaigners marched through cities in Bulgaria – as well as Paris and London – to protest against US energy giant Chevron’s plans to drill for shale gas in the country.

A DECC spokesman said: “Energy Minister 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. Moreover, DECC officials and Environment Agency staff briefed the Minister for a Parliamentary debate on shale gas.”