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Environment Agency Calms Fears Over Shale Gas Development

Paul Berentzen, Blackpool Gazette

The Environment Agency has moved to calm fears over the risks of fracking by insisting it will be properly regulated if the controversial practice goes ahead on the Fylde coast.

Wesham residents were invited to an information session yesterday as part of an ongoing consultation over energy firm Cuadrilla’s application for permits to drill for shale gas at its Preston New Road site in Little Plumpton.

The Environment Agency will assess the potential impact of the plans on the environment before deciding whether to issue the permits, a decision it aims to make in the next four months.

Steve Molyneux, area environment manager for Lancashire, said: “The industry is charged for regulation – the taxpayer does not pay for it – so it is not affected by any government cuts.

“If the industry develops, it will pay more and that funds more inspectors.

“If permits are issued, we would expect to be on site for the set-up, when it’s being drilled and when water flowback is happening – there would be teams turning up unannounced.”

One of the key concerns is how the water that is injected at high pressure into the rock to release gas trapped underground – using a process known as hydraulic fracturing – is treated and disposed of.

Mr Molyneux said it is likely that mains water will be used in the fracking process but the chemicals added to it and Cuadrilla’s plans for disposing of it have not yet been revealed.

But he said Cuadrilla’s sites are well outside protected water zones and unlikely to threaten the region’s drinking water.

Some residents remained unconvinced.

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