A GOVERNMENT minister has vowed safety will come first when considering fracking on the Fylde coast.
In a House of Commons debate on energy in Lancashire, Business Innovation and Skills minister John Hayes said there would be rigorous safety measures before the controversial gas drilling process was allowed to go ahead.
He said: “Before there is any return to the exploration necessary – long before production by the way – I will ensure rigorous measures are in place to minimise risk, to take local community interest into account, and to allow for a rigorous and thorough planning process.”
The minister acknowledged concern about contamination of water supplies but added: “The select committee on energy and climate change carried out an inquiry into shale gas which confirmed, providing good industry practice is followed and careful regulation applied, hydraulic fracturing – fracking – is unlikely to pose a risk to ground water or aquifers.”
Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high-speed to fracture rock and release the shale gas.
The debate was suggested by Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw who called for a united energy policy for Lancashire to look at wind power, shale gas drilling and potentially gas storage and tidal power.
He also demanded the county receives any associated economic benefits.
He said: “Any farmer who grants permission for fracking to go ahead and gets the drills going will not get much return and nor will the county. If the process is to be pursued and supported nationally, local people must see a benefit and, from what I understand, the employment benefits are not large.”
Mr Ollerenshaw paid tribute to the Protect Wyre group which is now resisting a third planning application for gas storage Over Wyre.
And with a group pressing for a tidal barrage in the River Wyre he said there should be a national statement on tidal power.
Meanwhile, campaigners battling against plans for shale gas drilling in Lancashire took their fight to the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton on Saturday.
Cuadrilla Resources has set up sites across parts of Lancashire to test the feasibility of extracting shale gas.
But The Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAAF) and Friends of the Earth travelled to the conference to lobby energy secretary Ed Davey, who is due to rule on whether site explorations can continue, following tremors on the Fylde coast last year.
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner, said: “Lancashire residents wanted to send a clear message to the Energy Secretary that we don’t want fracking.
“Shale gas exploration is rushing ahead despite the huge uncertainty over the impacts of fracking.”