Fylde residents can quiz Environment Agency officials over fracking on Monday – as the UK’s Energy Minister moved to refute safety fears about the practice.
An open day is to be held at Wesham Community Centre, Church Road, Wesham, between 2.30 and 7.30pm, on Monday, to explain the Environment Agency’s role in onshore oil and gas regulation.
It follows Cuadrilla’s applications for planning permission to drill up to four wells and test gas flow at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde.
Steve Molyneux, environment manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Our regulatory controls for onshore oil and gas are in place to protect people and the environment
“We will assess the company’s proposals to ensure they meet our strict requirements.
“As part of our assessment, we welcome comments from the public and interested groups on local environmental factors that may be important.”
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Michael Fallon claimed there was no evidence from the United States of underground water being contaminated as a result of “fracking”.
He insisted that because hydraulic fracturing for shale gas takes place deeper beneath the Earth’s surface than groundwater levels, gasses cannot escape into the water and contaminate it.
His comments come despite numerous reports of possible gas contamination of groundwater in the US, where fracking is now widespread.
Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex pressed him in the Commons to set up baseline monitoring of methane gas levels in groundwater before fracking starts to allow checks to be made for pollution if and when production begins.
Fylde based oil and gas engineer Mike Hill had a letter published in medical journal The Lancet this week questioning the strength of UK regulation and warning of health issues associated with fracking in the US.
He said: “The UK Government is constantly reassuring the public that fracking is safe and strictly regulated.
“The reality seems to be somewhat different – with just one out of 10 Royal Society recommendations implemented in two years.”
However a DECC spokesman said: “The UK has a robust regulatory system and permission to frack for shale will only be granted if the companies’ operations are safe.
“The Royal Society, in their report, made no recommendations for new legislation.
“ However, they did recommend some improvements and we are implementing them.”
Meanwhile this week, the secretary-general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia was backing anti-fracking groups to destabilise rival supplies of gas.
He said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
His claim however, was ridiculed by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace whose spokesman said: “The idea we’re puppets of Putin is preposterous.
“Mr Rasmussen should spend less time dreaming up conspiracy theories and more time on the facts.”
n A meeting will be held by the newly-formed Thornton Unites against Fracking group at the Ashley Club, Victoria Road East, on Thursday from 7 to 9pm.