The government has rejected calls from fossil fuel companies to relax regulations around fracking, potentially ending the prospect of commercial fracking in the UK.
Oil and gas firm Cuadrilla complained earlier this week that it could only frack a tiny portion of its well at Preston New Road, Lancashire last autumn due to limits on minor earth tremors.
However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) today announced that while it supports fracking, it will not review the limits, which are some of the most stringent in the world.
A spokesperson for BEIS said: ‘The government believes shale gas could be an important new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits including the creation of well paid, quality jobs.
‘That’s why the government has given the industry significant support to develop while ensuring that our world-leading regulations remain in place to ensure fracking happens safely and responsibly.
‘We set these regulations in consultation with industry and we have no plans to review them.’
The government faced calls to review the limits after Cuadrilla, the only body currently fracking in the UK, were forced to stop activity last autumn after repeatedly recording tremors over the allowed threshold.
Current rules mean that fracking must be suspended for 18 hours if any tremor over 0.5 magnitude is detected – as happened four times at Preston New Road last year.
Although leading seismology experts claimed last month that it could be safe to raise the threshold, the government appears unwilling to budge, with others expressing concerns that doing so could open the floodgates to progressively worse tremors.
The announcement was welcomed by environmental campaigners who praised the government for refusing to back down.
Daniel Carey-Dawes, infrastructure policy manager of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: ‘The government has today met its obligation to protect our environment and the public by refusing to entertain the desperate calls by industry for a relaxation of regulations on seismic activity as a result of fracking.’
The release came as new BEiS figures revealed that public opinion has shifted further against fracking since November last year, continuing a general trend since December 2013.
Figures from the BEIS’ Public Attitudes Tracker found that 35% of people in the UK now oppose fracking, with those in favour dropping slightly to 13%.
40% of opponents cited the risk of earthquakes as their reason for opposing fracking, a significant increase on the 26% recorded last September prior to the tremors last autumn.
Fear of the natural environment being lost or destroyed was the most common reason that people opposed fracking, with 62% of opponents citing this as their reason.