A new UK regulator for the fracking industry should be established to give the public more confidence in the fledgling sector, a task force has concluded.
The new regulator should independently monitor fracking sites to make sure that any problems that could lead to leaks are discovered and remedied, a report by the Task Force on Shale Gas said.
The current monitoring of shale gas exploration and regulatory activities lie with the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Energy and Climate Change respectively, but should be handed over to the regulator, it said.
The task force, which is funded by shale companies, said it operates independently and urged the new government in May to legislate for a new regulator after the general election.
A government spokesman said: “Britain has one of the most robust set of regulations in the world for shale gas.
“Both the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency have full authority and responsibility to monitor all shale sites – independent of the industry.”
However, Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Task Force on Shale Gas and former head of the Environment Agency, said that following their conversation with local communities, the regulatory framework appears too complex for most people, and it leads to a lack of confidence in the system.
“We believe the creation of a new bespoke regulator for onshore underground energy would command more public confidence for ensuring proper monitoring and regulation of any proposed shale gas industry.”
The report also suggested that local community should be given the chance to be involved in the monitoring to verify the process and wants shale firms to engage with communities long before drilling proposals are submitted.
The task force intends to publish further reports this year on environment protection, climate and economics, and a final study on the risk and benefits of shale gas is to be published in spring 2016.
Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas – or fracking – typically involves drilling down more than a mile and then horizontally to release the gas trapped in layers of shale by pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground.