The UK’s government on Thursday scrapped a moratorium on fracking in England, in an effort to boost local fossil fuel production amid a deepening energy crisis.
Newly-elected Prime Minister Liz Truss announced in her first few days in office that she would reverse the 2019 ban on hydraulic fracturing, a drilling procedure that extracts fossil fuels from deep beneath the ground by breaking up shale rocks.
Truss said it was “vital” to secure Britain’s energy supply, which has been disrupted since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result of the supply shortage, the country’s energy regulator has warned energy bills will jump 80% this winter.
But fracking has long been opposed by environmental groups and communities for the damage it can cause to the environment. They say it can trigger earthquakes, contaminate water and emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The moratorium in England was enacted after several tremors were recorded near the UK’s only active fracking site, in Lancashire, England. Nearly 200 locals reported damage to their homes and the industry regulator said it was impossible to predict the magnitude of tremors the drilling could trigger.
Britain’s business and energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg brushed off concerns as “hysteria” saying the “scare stories have been disproved time and again”.
But he faced an angry backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who accused the Conservative government of breaking its own 2019 manifesto pledge to maintain the ban on fracking until the practice was scientifically proven to be safe.
The same day, the British Geological Survey (BGS) released a report, requested by the government, concluding that it “remains challenging” to estimate the seismic impact fracking could have on the country.
The government said that local communities will be consulted before new fracking sites are approved, but did not specify how local support will be measured or how consultations will take place.