Drilling ‘high risk’ say EU’s scientists

Anna's Road Cuadrilla site, off North Houses Lane, Westby.
Anna's Road Cuadrilla site, off North Houses Lane, Westby.
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FEARS have been raised over controversial shale gas drilling after a report suggested it posed a “high risk” to health.

Scientists from the European Union’s environment directorate have added to calls for tough new regulations to be imposed on the industry after ruling it could damage the environment and people’s health.

It is not the first time a study has called for better regulation of the industry, but anti-shale gas campaigners have called on the Government to take notice of this latest report.

Although fracking – pumping water and chemicals underground at high-speed to fracture rock and release the shale gas – is currently suspended in the UK, Cuadrilla Resources has a licence to drill on the Fylde coast with sites in Singleton, Weeton and Westby.

And Philip Mitchell, chairman of Blackpool and Fylde Green Party said: “This report confirms the high risk to human health and the environment linked to fracking.

“It adds weight to the warnings of scientists that the densely-populated UK must steer clear from unlocking its unconventional hydrocarbon resources such as shale gas to protect our communities and the environment.”

The latest 300-page report was produced for the European Commission and identified “a number of issues as presenting a high risk for people and the environment”.

It claims there is a high risk of ground and surface water contamination and of gas being released into the air.

However, the risk of seismicity is rated as “low” by the study, despite a series of earthquakes on the Fylde coast leading to the suspension of fracking and a review by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Before DECC give the go-ahead for fracking to resume it is expected to impose new rules, and the EU study recommends a full environmental impact assessment should be mandatory for every shale gas drilling operation.

Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “This report silences industry rhetoric - shale gas is undeniably a high-risk activity.

“It threatens the health of local communities, and the environment, while locking Europe into fossil fuel dependency.

“These risks are a clear sign that a moratorium on this toxic technology in Europe should be a priority for decision makers.”

Cuadrilla declined to comment.