I fully understand and appreciate people’s concerns about fracking, but let me reassure you that the Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment. With these in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.
The Government has introduced draft regulations to Parliament that define the areas in which fracking will be banned. I can assure you that National Parks are covered by these protections, and as such, fracking cannot take place at depths of less than 1,200 metres in these areas. The Government has clearly committed to ensuring that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled at the surface of National Parks, and I am confident that these protections will ensure that the beauty of our National Parks is protected.
There are three individual certifications that companies must complete before the Department for Energy and Climate Change will grant a licence. Planning permission must be granted by the local minerals planning authority, permits must be awarded by the relevant environmental regulator, such as the Environment Agency in England, and finally, inspections must be carried out by the Health and Safety Executive.
The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries, and Ministers have assured me that that this experience will be brought to bear on the shale gas protections. The industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections. It will create jobs and deliver better energy security, while all the time safeguarding some of our most precious landscapes.