Ex-Tory minister, Nick Herbert, yesterday told The Telegraph that rural communities had grave concerns over fracking due to a “fear of the unknown,” as opposition to controversial shale gas drilling gathers pace across the political spectrum.
The comments came a week after drilling started in Balcombe, West Sussex, despite protests involving both energy activists and the local community.
Activists warn that Balcombe could set a precedent that will allow drilling for shale gas in sites across the countryside, with an area near Fernhurst in the South Downs national park, the next location under threat. Energy firm, Celtique Energie, have submitted an application to start drilling in the area, which could start next year.
Herbert pleaded for more reliable information on the long term impact of fracking, saying: “What you are talking about here is very beautiful and tranquil countryside that people are keen to preserve. People understand the national arguments about the need for secure and cheap energy, but they just don’t know how much this is going to damage the local environment.”
Environmental activists have, for some time, been warning about the dangers that the intensive process of hydraulic fracturing poses to both people and the environment. This process, which campaign group Frack Off say on their website, includes “leaking methane, water contamination, air pollution, radioactive contamination, massive industrialisation of the landscape, worsening climate change and earthquakes”.
It appears that opposition to the controversial practice is spreading from activist groups to Westminster, with Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, becoming the first senior government figure to speak out against it, echoing Herbert’s concerns.
Farron told colleagues: “I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats that fracking poses to the countryside.” He went on to describe the policy to allow hydraulic fracturing as “short-sighted” and added ominously that “we will all be left to live with the consequences.”