Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Britain’s fracking regulator accuses rampant environmental campaigners of putting ‘fear’ in politicians

Natascha Engels resigned from her post in protest at pandering to scare stories

Anti-fracking protesters are joined by English actresses Emma Thompson (2L) during a protest march at the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla have set up hydraulic fracturing operations. proponents say the UK is sitting on huge reserves. AFP / Paul ELLIS
Anti-fracking protesters are joined by English actresses Emma Thompson (2L) during a protest march at the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla have set up hydraulic fracturing operations. proponents say the UK is sitting on huge reserves. AFP / Paul ELLIS

A senior British politician who has quit her role as shale gas commissioner after just 6 months has warned that climate change protests by the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion is a “recipe for paralysis” that could push politicians into making “bad decisions” over the UK’s fracking policy.

Natascha Engel, a former Labour MP and the government’s lead on the shale gas extraction industry, resigned from her post over the weekend after criticising the UK government is beholden to campaigners and activists on fracking.

Ms Engel said the government was “pandering to what we know to be myths and scare stories” about shale gas extraction.

“As the sometime commissioner for shale gas…it became clear to me that fracking was the only way to reduce our carbon emissions at any sort of scale,” she told The Times newspaper

“Properly regulated, the process is as safe as any other drilling industry.”

A supporter of fracking, she believes current regulations inhibit the energy industry to take advantage of gas reserves underground.

“The profile of environmentalism has really been raised and I think the need to reduce our carbon emissions is absolutely urgent and fracking is absolutely one way we can do that”, she said.

Regulations currently impose a temporary ban on fracking if a tremor of 0.5 magnitude is recorded.

The process involves drilling underground to recover gas and oil from shale rock using a high-pressure water mixture.

The resignation statements resonate with the industry. Francis Egan, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla Resources, which is fracking in northern England, said Britian was missing out on the chance to generate five decades of its own energy. “Instead of embracing this huge opportunity, we remain wedded to a minuscule micro-seismic threshold which has no scientific basis and is without parallel anywhere else in the world,” he said.

A second firm INEOS has said it may return its fracking licences because the rules make it impossible to develop sites. “The issue of seismic limits is important because when they were originally set, we understood that operations under these controls would be subject to careful scrutiny to ensure effectiveness but would also be reviewed as experience developed to ensure they are proportionate to the risks. This has not been the case and the industry is being stopped from moving forward,” a spokesman said this month.

Environmental groups have criticised Ms Engels for her support of fracking as an alternative to reduce carbon emissions

“What's bad news for frackers is good news for everyone else,” said Greenpeace UK on Monday.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth say the government has already "bent over backwards to help the fracking industry" and believe fracking is “deeply unpopular” with the public.

Updated: April 29, 2019 07:11 PM

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