The Angling Trust has welcomed the Government’s consultation indicating that it now intends to ban surface fracking in England’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Water and environmental groups, including the Angling Trust, had expressed concern that SSSIs had been dropped from the list of protected areas in the Infrastructure Act where there was to be an outright ban on fracking. The list included National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
In March 2014, the Angling Trust, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and other partners of the Fit To Frack coalition published two reports under the title of ‘Are we fit to frack?’.
The report, peer-reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, looked at the experience and evidence from the US fracking industry and in the UK. It analysed the risks to the natural environment, water supply, watercourses and the climate from a growing UK fracking industry, and found that improvements were needed to the regulatory regime around fracking in order to protect the natural environment including fisheries.
The Angling Trust is particularly concerned that watercourses could be contaminated by any fracture in fracking pipes that are drilled through the aquifers that feed the headwaters of our river systems. They have been liaising with their colleagues from Trout Unlimited in the USA where weak fracking regulations have led to a range of environmental problems.
Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Angling Trust, said: “We are very pleased the Government has finally indicated it intends to ban surface fracking in Sites of Special Scientific Interest as for a while it looked as if SSSIs were going to be excluded from any form of special protection.
“It’s also good to see this ban further extended to the Natura 2000 sites as these are areas that are particularly important for fish and wildlife at a European level.
“Whilst we would have preferred to see a total fracking ban in these areas it is the surface activity that poses the greatest risk to the important water aquifers so we must accept this as an improvement.
“We have worked closely with other wildlife and environmental groups to persuade the government to introduce robust regulations to ensure that whatever fracking activity takes place in England does so with minimum risk to our rivers, streams and water courses.
“It would only take one ghastly screw up to see untold damage occurring and by having tough rules and exemptions for sensitive areas we can be a little more confident that fish and wildlife will not be put at risk in the rush to exploit this source of gas and oil.”
The Angling Trust is encouraging people to respond to the consultation on these proposals and hopes that the Government’s final decision will remain to ban fracking in SSSIs and all other protected areas.
A company looking to develop shale needs to obtain all the necessary permissions, including planning permission from the relevant planning authority and environmental permits from the relevant environmental regulator.
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