The Environment Agency (EA) has granted energy company Cuadrilla permits to start shale gas exploration at one of its sites in Lancashire.
The environmental permits were required to ensure the operations will be carried out safely at Preston New Road, Plumpton, but the Lancashire county council is to make the final decision before the firm can explore shale gas.
“After completing a rigorous assessment of Cuadrilla’s application and the public consultation responses, we are confident the permits issued will ensure people and the environment are protected,” said Steve Molyneux, environment manager for Lancashire.
Under the conditions of permit, Cuadrilla must protect groundwater, surface water and air quality safety as well as ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste.
“The right controls are in place to manage waste and the flaring of gas safely, and protect local water resources. Should Cuadrilla begin exploration, we will ensure the permit conditions are enforced,” said Molyneux.
The permission comes one day after the British Geological Society (BGS) said it will expand its national supervision programmes for environmental issues at shale gas extraction sites across the UK, including Lancashire, to gather detailed data on seismic activity and groundwater.
"This groundbreaking research will provide new scientific insight and innovative ways of monitoring the environmental impact of shale gas development," said Professor John Ludden, executive director at the BGS.
Cuadrilla said the grating of permits was “an important seal of approval”.
Hydraulic fracturing, pejoratively known as fracking, pumps water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it.
Although the government supports the shale gas industry, declaring that it could clamp down the country’s reliance on gas imports, opponents have raised concerns over earthquakes and water pollution from fracking.
Hundreds of people attended a six-day protest in August near the Little Plumpton proposed site to campaign against shale gas extraction.