Westminster told that fracking does not contaminate ground water

Just over a week ago, Michael Fallon MP, the Minister of State for Business and the Minister of State for Energy, previously the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, stated within the house of commons that in the USA, there have been no examples of hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water.

The statement has been contested my many environmental groups as false, including the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network.

Conservative MP Michael Fallon arrives at Downing Street

There are many examples of water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing, in particular Carrizo, a company who last week were fined near 200,000 US Dollars for a well control incident that occurred during the hydraulic fracturing of a well, an event that released 200,000 gallons of toxic fluid into local environment.

Further to that, there was also a hydraulic fracturing well blow out that release toxic drilling fluids into local waterways, and the now famous 3 million dollar lawsuit that was awarded to the Parr family, who had suffered as a result of their air and water being contaminated by the over all process of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Not to mention peer reviewed science provided by a 2011 study in northeastern Pennsylvania by Osborne et al that found that concentrations of methane gas increased with proximity to gas wells undergoing high volume hydraulic fracturing.

The questions and answers from the House of Commons is laid out below:

Debate on shale gas in the House of Commons
Priti Patel (Witham, Conservative)
What recent estimate has he [the Energy Minister] made of the value to the UK economy of the shale gas sector.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
The Government are promoting responsible shale development for greater energy security, to deliver jobs and growth and to support investment. The recent EY report estimates that there could be £33 billion-worth of spend on shale gas exploration creating about 64,000 jobs, including over £20 billion on hydraulic fracturing and £8 billion on drilling and completion of the wells. That is why we are supporting exploration to understand just how much of this potential can be realised.

Priti Patel
I thank the Minister for his response. Given the enormous projected value of the shale gas sector and the opportunity shale provides for energy independence, do the Government have plans to support more investment in shale gas infrastructure?

Michael Fallon
Yes, we have set out the new fiscal regime that will apply to shale exploration. We have a system of robust regulation in place. There are some dozen companies now exploring, and I shall shortly be inviting applications for new onshore licences under the 14th licensing round, which will afford more opportunities for new companies to enter this market, and I know colleagues across the House will want to champion applications for licences in their area.

Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister; Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Labour)
The Minister in his reply referred to robust regulation, and he is right that robust regulation is important, as is comprehensive monitoring of those regulations to meet the higher public acceptability test for this technology. Given that groundwater can contain methane naturally, will the Minister explain why it is that, more than two and half years after the issue being raised with his predecessors, it is still the case that the regulations do not include the baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater, especially as there are concerns about such contamination in the US and elsewhere? Surely it is important that we have that as part of the regulation to ensure confidence in the regulatory regime for shale gas.

Michael Fallon
There are no examples from the United States of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater because, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the fracturing takes place verymuch deeper than any groundwater levels. I am happy to look at the specific point that he mentions about baseline monitoring.

For a copy of the House of Commons exchange, please click here.

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