Guest post by Ralph Underhill, Water Policy Officer

Today the RSPB responded to the Department of energy and climate change consultation on addressing the impacts of shale gas extraction on seismic activity. There is high chance you know shale gas extraction by a different name, it is more commonly referred to as fracking.

The process of hydraulic fracturing – or "fracking" – involves drilling a hole deep into the dense shale rocks that contain natural gas, then pumping in at very high pressure vast quantities of water mixed with sand and chemicals. This opens up tiny fissures in the rock, through which the trapped gas can then escape. It bubbles out and is captured in well that brings it to the surface, where it can be piped off.

We are a bit worried that the current approach to Fracking is not sufficiently precautionary. Currently planning permission has been the only local consent given to the exploratory drilling sites that have already gone ahead in England. Due to their small scale they have not even had to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment, although this sounds scarily technical it basically requires a developer to look at the possible environmental impacts of a development and demonstrate how they will address them.

In our response to the consultation we have asked for more requirements to be made of operators to ensure that they minimise the risk of possible environmental impacts from this process and we feel this chimes with Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency (the main regulatory involved in fracking). 

As reported by the BBC, "Lord Smith said natural gas "has to be drawn out of the ground effectively and safely" He said that "means worrying about the way in which the drilling takes places, it means worrying about making sure the methane is captured rather than discharged to the air and it means making sure that none of the contaminated water gets into the ground water that sometimes can fill our water supplies"."

You can read the full article here.

We will continue to work with government and its agencies to try and ensure that environmental risks posed by fracking are addressed.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on fracking, do leave a comment to let us know.