Are we fit to frack?

View of the vast stretch of green at Golden Valley, Ashridge Estate

Fracking in the UK is a practice that can have a major impact on our landscape and wildlife. We’ve joined up with other leading countryside groups to call for our most sensitive areas to become frack-free zones and for improved regulation of shale gas.

A report called ‘Are We Fit to Frack?’ was developed with the Angling Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. We set out 10 recommendations for Government to make fracking safer.

Frack-free zones

The recommendations are based on a full technical evidence report which has been peer reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, one of the UK’s leading ecological research institutes. It is supported by a cross party group of MPs including Zac Goldsmith, Alan Whitehead and Tessa Munt.

We are calling for:

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

Serious concerns

The report highlights a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species including pink-footed geese, salmon and barbastelle bats.
It also raises serious concerns about the impact of drilling and water contamination on some of our most precious natural habitats such as chalk streams. These crystal clear waterways are known to anglers and wildlife-lovers as England’s coral reefs – 85 per cent of the world’s chalk streams are found here.
Simon Pryor, our natural environment Director, said: 'The debate on fracking needs to be evidence-based. The evidence from this detailed research clearly reveals that the regulation of shale gas needs to be improved if it’s to offer adequate protection for sensitive environments.
'While the Government is keen to see rapid roll out of fracking, there’s a real danger that the regulatory system simply isn’t keeping pace. The Government should rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas and ensure that the regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.'

The recommendations contained in the report are:

  • Avoid sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones.
  • Make Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory for shale gas extraction proposals.
  • Require shale extraction companies to pay for a world-class regulatory regime.
  • Prevent taxpayers from bearing the costs of accidental pollution.
  • Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
  • Require all hydraulic fracturing operations to operate under a Groundwater Permit.
  • Make sure the Best Available Techniques for mine waste management are rigorously defined and regularly reviewed.
  • Ensure full transparency of the shale gas industry and its environmental impact.
  • Ensure monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is rigorous and independent.
  • Minimise and monitor methane emissions.
Our recommendations are in line with our policy on renewable energy at the Trust. We have committed to reduce its energy use by 15 per cent, halve fossil fuel consumption and generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.