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Better Regulation Needed for Fracking

Jun 20, 2013

Further information
Norma Barry

The legal process in the UK to deal with the controversial process known as fracking needs to be simplified, and a lack of expertise within regulatory bodies must be addressed. That was the message at a UK Environmental Law Association seminar in Cardiff yesterday (Wednesday 19 June).

Lawyers, planners, environmental consultants, mining industry professionals, public sector officials and representatives of the third sector were discussing the experiences of the United Stated in shale gas exploration, which is now a major source of gas there.

Haydn Davies of UKELA said:

“The event was particularly timely in the light of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s decision during the last budget to lift the moratorium on the process of fracking in order to pave the way for companies to exploit the considerable shale gas reserves that are available in various areas of the UK.

He added:

“There is no definitive assessment of these gas reserves but they are known to be very significant. The fact that major energy companies, such as Centrica, are now investing in the work is a clear sign of the potential for exploitation of this energy source.”

James Taylor, a leading lawyer in the energy and the environment field spoke about the experience of the United States in fracking for shale gas and the extent of the reserves that are being considered for exploration in other countries within Europe and the Far East.

He pointed out that within Europe there are a number of barriers to be overcome such as the density of populations, land rights, the consent regime, the infrastructure for drilling and access to the gas grid.

James said:

"Given widespread concern over fracking we need to demonstrate that there is transparent and effective regulation to reassure the public that shale development can be undertaken safely and without risk to the environment. Within the UK we have a complex system of multiple regulators operating under multiple regimes none of which were formulated with shale in mind. It remains to be seen whether this system is comprehensive enough to address public concerns."

He also stated:

“There are a number of other concerns such as the impact on water supply and quality, environmental damage and the impact of the process on carbon emission targets.”

The event concluded with a presentation from Rob Jeffries of Environ UK who explained the technical process, pointing out that this has actually been taking place in Wales since the 1940s. Rob spoke about the limitations of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and its environmental impacts.

Notes to the editors:

UKELA is the charity which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law. It promotes, for the benefit of the public generally, the enhancement and conservation of the environment in the UK and advances the education of the public in all matters relating to the development, teaching, application and practice of law relating to the environment.

A working party for Wales was set up in July 2012 to promote understanding and awareness of environmental law and influence the development of legislation.

The Seminar was hosted by Hugh James Solicitors and chaired by Haydn Davies of UKELA’s Wales Working Party.

For any enquiries, please contact Dr Norma Barry, UKELA Wales Coordinator on 07785 551511 or 029 2022 6263

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX

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