Fracking & Wildlife
Climate change is presenting a significant and serious long-term threat to biodiversity and people across the world.
The Wildlife Trusts believe we need:
- A reduction in energy demand and for energy efficiency measures to provide the central focus of the Government’s approach to sustainable energy policy;
- A reduction in dependency on fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil);
- Government funding prioritised on the development and implementation of renewable technologies;
- The restoration of ecosystems, such as peatlands to absorb carbon (and a range of other natural services) to help mitigate and adapt to human induced climate change.
All forms of energy generation will entail some environmental costs and we believe that the risks and benefits associated with each need to be weighed against each other and considered in the context of location and scale.
The extraction of oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing presents a number of environmental risks to wildlife and society. In the dash for shale gas, we have particular concerns that this is running ahead of effective regulations to minimise and eliminate the serious risks. The Wildlife Trusts are particularly concerned about the impact on:
- Water quality (surface and ground water contamination) and quantity (water stress and availability);
- Habitats, species and ecosystems (disturbance, damage, loss and fragmentation)
- Climate Change (through increased greenhouse gas emissions)
In 2014, in partnership with the Angling Trust, the National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, we published Are We Fit to Frack? The report made ten recommendations to make the regulatory framework for the shale gas industry, fit for purpose.
Concerns over oil and gas exploration in Somerset
Somerset Wildlife Trust has raised serious concerns after parts of the county were licensed for oil and gas exploration in December 2015.
Somerset’s PEDL (Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence) areas were assessed in autumn 2015, because they included – or were close to – important natural sites.
A public consultation on the wildlife assessments was carried out, and Somerset Wildlife Trust responded formally, outlining the potential negative impacts on our environment.
Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas – commonly known as ‘fracking’ – is just one method of extraction and it has been reported that the majority of the currently licensed parts of Somerset are not in the British Geological Survey's prospective shale gas zone.
But there are concerns that other environmentally damaging fracturing and extraction processes, which are not covered by some safeguards and restrictions in recent legislation, could be used.
These processes have caused negative impacts in other places where they’ve been deployed, including water contamination, air pollution, production of toxic and radioactive waste, increased carbon emissions, and the industrialisation of the countryside.
The area around Frome, which crosses into Wiltshire, is marked as ‘CBM’ (Coal Bed Methane extraction) as the ‘primary prospectivity’ for the area, in the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA)’s list of offers made to operators. This list is available online here. The Somerset coast is listed as ‘Shale’, but it is not clear what type of extraction method this refers to.
Licences granted in December 2015 are held by Wales-based company South Western Energy Ltd, giving them the sole right to explore for oil and gas, but no authorisation to start exploration will be given until individual planning permissions and other permits are granted from local or central authorities.
In the meantime, SWT has written to the OGA, to ask for further clarification on what extraction methods are most likely to be used within the coastal licensing blocks, and we’ll keep you updated.
Further information on the licensing rounds can be found here.
Details of the consultation outcome can be found here.