A return of fracking on the Fylde took a step closer today after the environmental watchdog said it was likely to grant permission at one site.
The Environment Agency revealed it was minded to approve Cuadrilla’s application for a licence to carry out test drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas at a site off Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton.
It comes as it was announced there would be a second period of consultation on the applications for environmental permits for the proposed shale gas exploration site.
In its statement, the Environment Agency said it had been assessing Cuadrilla’s applications and comments made by the public in the first period of consultation, which closed in August.
It said: “Based on this assessment, the Environment Agency is minded to grant Cuadrilla the environmental permits needed to carry out their operations and welcomes any new relevant information for consideration before making a final decision.”
However, to go ahead and frack the site, along with a sister site at Roaseacre, Cuadrilla still needs planning permission from Lancashire County Council. A decision on that is due at the end of the year.
If the permits are issued, Cuadrilla would have to follow strict conditions which aim to ensure that operations do not cause harm to people or the environment.
Steve Molyneux, Environment Agency environment manager for Lancashire, said: “Our regulatory controls for onshore oil and gas are in place to protect people and the environment.
“We will not permit activities that pose an unacceptable risk. This further stage of consultation gives the public and interested groups an opportunity to see our decision making process and have their say on the draft environmental permits.”
People can view the documents online at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, responding to the announcement, said: “We welcome the announcement by the Environment Agency that it is minded to approve our permits.
“It comes at the end of a robust and rigorous review of our permit applications to ensure that, as we have committed, the local environment is well protected throughout our proposed exploratory operations.
“We will of course comply fully with their requirements for our proposed new sites.”