Green campaigners are concerned the amendments could damage the environment

Fracking rule amendments 'sneaked in' says Greenpeace

The government has been accused of loosening fracking regulations “through the back door of parliament" by environmental campaigners Greenpeace.

Under new amendments to the infrastructure bill, operators will be allowed to drill under national parks, while other areas known as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) will have no protections against exploration for shale gas.

Wildlife charity the RSPB has warned 293 SSSIs are included in 159 onshore oil and gas licence blocks recently offered by the Government.

The new rules will also allow fracking to take place under areas of outstanding natural beauty and World Heritage Sites, as well as in groundwater protection zones, as long as it is more than 1,200 metres down.

Greenpeace allege that the amendments are being ‘sneaked’ into legislation because they are being debated by a cross-party committee of just 18 MPs and will be put to a vote in the Commons without a debate.

The body says the new rules are a U-turn on a coalition decision to accept Labour's moves to tighten fracking regulations.

Greenpeace head of energy Daisy Sands said: "It is deeply disturbing that the government appears to be playing fast and loose with democracy.

"Not only are they breaking their promise that national parks would not be scarred by fracking, but they are trying to sneak these regulations through the back door of parliament without any consent from the public and without any proper scrutiny from MPs.

"It is abundantly clear that this government is trying to force fracking on a reluctant nation using every trick in the book.”

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "This is not new - we laid these regulations and publicised them in July.

"The UK has one of the best track records in the world for protecting our environment while developing our industries - these regulations will get this vital industry moving while protecting our environment and people."

Earlier this month, the chief executive of chemicals company Ineos said that Scotland should embrace fracking in order to gain economic independence from England.

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