Exercising control

Lucie Ponting considers the UK regulatory framework in her final report on minimising risks from fracking

The multi-agency regulatory framework overseeing hydraulic fracturing or fracking is central to controlling the risks from the process, a point clearly acknowledged in a 2012 review by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering. It concluded that the risks ‘can be managed effectively in the UK, as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation’.

Three years later, parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, which unsuccessfully called for a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, noted that, despite assurances from some ‘that environmental risks can be safely accommodated by existing regulatory systems’, an extensive range of uncertainties remained over particular hazards, including those to health. It called for a more joined-up regulatory system, and greater consideration of the cumulative impacts of fracking and how the industry might scale up.

Public confidence

With two shale gas operators, Cuadrilla and Third Energy, gearing up to start fracking in England for the first time since activity was suspended in 2011, the regulatory regime and its power to enforce requirements are likely to come under scrutiny again. The Westminster government – which is committed to developing a full-scale, commercial, unconventional gas industry – the shale operators and the individual regulators are all publicly confident that ...

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