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Leading countryside groups join forces to challenge fracking rules across the UK

13 March 2014

Leianna Padgett
Media and Communications Officer
E-mail: leianna.padgett@rspb.org.uk

Poorly regulated fracking and shale gas extraction risks harming threatened species and polluting our waterways, according to a report produced by the UK’s leading wildlife and countryside groups.

The report, Are We Fit to Frack?, was launched today by the Angling Trust, the National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. It contains ten recommendations for making fracking safer as the UK Government continues its push to get companies to apply for licences to explore and drill for shale gas.

The groups are calling for protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each proposal, and for the shale gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.

The report highlights a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species.  It also raises serious concerns about risks of water contamination and concludes that the UK is at present not ‘fit to frack’.

The report comes just days before a public inquiry is due to begin examining the application for the first commercial extraction of unconventional gas in Scotland at Airth. Whilst the proposal by Dart Energy to extract coal bed methane (another ‘unconventional gas’) does not involve fracking, it raises many of the same environmental concerns, including whether Scotland will be able to meet its climate change targets if new forms of fossil fuel extraction forge ahead.

RSPB Scotland, along with Scottish Environment LINK, have called on the Scottish Government to take a cautious approach to any extraction of unconventional gas in Scotland, with a presumption against extraction until concerns about environmental and climate impacts have been properly addressed.

Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said: “The findings of this report reinforce RSPB Scotland’s calls for a precautionary approach to all unconventional gas development in Scotland. Given the need to reduce our emissions, it would seem unwise to begin exploitation of another fossil fuel with the almost inevitable increase in carbon emissions that would result.”

Notes

·         The report, ‘Are We Fit to Frack?’ features ten recommendations for making the shale gas industry safe for wildlife. It is based upon the document ‘Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas in the UK: Examining the Evidence for Potential Environmental Impacts’, which has been written by the project partners and peer- reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). Both are available to download at www.rspb.org.uk/fracking

 

·         The recommendations contained in the report are:

1.     Avoid sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones.

2.     Make Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)mandatory for shale gas extraction proposals.

3.     Require shale extraction companies to pay for a world-class regulatory regime.

4.     Prevent taxpayers from bearing the costs of accidental pollution.

5.     Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.

6.     Require all hydraulic fracturing operations to operate under a Groundwater Permit.

7.     Make sure the Best Available Techniques (BAT) for mine waste management are rigorously defined and regularly reviewed.

8.     Ensure full transparency of the shale gas industry and its environmental impact.

9.     Ensure monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is rigorous and independent.

10.  Minimise and monitor methane emissions.

 

·         RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. http://www.rspb.org.uk/

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