Not even in exceptional circumstances - shale gas extraction in natural parks will be completely forbidden

Fracking in national parks to be forbidden

A complete ban on fracking in Britain's national parks will be put in place although such a scenario was previously considered in ‘exceptional circumstances’, an energy minister has said.

Speaking during a debate on the Infrastructure Bill in the Commons, energy minister Amber Rudd told the MPs the Government will be ‘effectively removing’ the previously proposed clause.

As mentioned by Liberal Democrat former minister Norman Baker during the debate, 18 per cent of the UK's sites of special scientific interest, 13 per cent of the special areas of conservation and 40 per cent of special protection areas, are covered by the 14th licensing round area for shale gas exploration.

When asked by Conservative Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) whether the previously proposed phrase 'except in exceptional circumstances' has been removed, Ms Rudd said: "You are absolutely right. That is exactly what we have now done. We have now put in place an outright ban and will be effectively removing those sentences."

The ban on fracking in national parks was proposed earlier today in a report by the Environmental Audit Committee. The report also suggested a general moratorium on extracting shale gas using hydraulic fracturing to be imposed due to the technique's improperly understood effects on the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The National Physical Laboratory carbon emissions expert Jane Burston, who provided evidence to the committee, told E&T the extraction of shale gas, which is considerably less polluting than coal or oil when being burnt, presents hidden sources of carbon emissions due to leaks and vents in the production process.

“The problem is that what is leaking during shale gas extraction is actually methane, which is a 28 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,” Burston said.

“We don’t know exactly how much of methane is leaking, there have been only a few studies done in the US and they have come up with very different results. The lowest estimates say that about 1.5 per cent of the gas leaks into the atmosphere over the lifetime of a well with the highest stating it could be up to 12 per cent.”

Burston said the chances are that with higher leaks and the climate warming efficiency of methane, all benefits of the possible switch to shale gas could be easily cancelled out. She called for an elaborate measurement programme to be established ahead of the commencement of any hydraulic fracturing operations in the UK.

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