Local shale gas extraction needs targeted regulation

Liberal Democrats from across the North West joined to demand a moratorium on shale gas exploration at their policymaking regional conference. Regional Chair and Southport Councillor Sue McGuire, called for a halt to further drilling until the environmental impacts were better understood. Shale gas recovery involves hard to reach reserves of methane being extracted by cracking porous rocks containing the gas using the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique known as ‘fracking’. Exploration companies are investigating shale gas reserves within the Bowland Shale Basin which covers a large part of Lancashire with test wells being drilled near both Blackpool and Southport. There are serious engineering and environmental concerns about the impact of fracking on low level seismic activity and on the possible contamination of water tables by the chemicals used in the process.

Sue McGuire said “A moratorium would give the government breathing space to fully investigate the issues connected to shale gas exploration and extraction.” Sue added ” There are strong economic arguments in favour of shale gas but these must be considered alongside any possible environmental impacts. Whilst Shale gas may well fill a short term energy gap it does not, in the longer term, provide any kind of solution to the ongoing issue of climate change.”

The conference heard that lobbying in the USA some years ago exempted fracking from key health & safety regulations and undermined confidence in the ability of companies to “do it right instead of do it cheap”. Chair of policy for the Liberal Democrats in the North West, Mike Turner explained “If shale gas extraction is to take place in the UK then we must ensure that it does so under strict industry specific regulation and that this legislation is enacted before further exploration licenses are issued.”

Professor Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Lancashire County Council commented, “In the US, the estimates of the amount of gas held within the Marcella Shale formation which stretches from New York State to Pennsylvania has been slashed by 80%. This must call into question the recent announcements made here regarding the amount of the gas held within the Bowland Shale Basin. If the estimates are so far wide of the mark in the U.S it may not be worth trying to extract the gas here, particularly as no one yet knows what proportion of the gas can actually be extracted”