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Natascha Engel, UK’s shale gas commissioner of six months has handed in her resignation, calling the earthquake rules adopted by the government “ridiculous” and an effective “ban on fracking.”
The rules, according to a BBC report, stipulate a suspension of fracking activities if an earthquake with a magnitude of 0.5 on the Richter scale is detected. Engel, an ex-MP from the Labour Party, argues this is "really ridiculously low." She told the BBC it had been clear from the start that if this limit was not increased, fracking would struggle to take off.
The now former top fracking officials also said the resignation had been prompted by the “terrible paralysis” the UK government had put itself into by taking the earthquake rules to an extreme.
"The profile of environmentalism has really been raised and I think the need to reduce our carbon emissions is absolutely urgent and fracking is absolutely one way we can do that," Engel also said, calling concerns about the effects of fracking on seismic activity “myths and scare stories.”
“A perfectly viable industry is wasted because of a government policy driven by an environmental lobbying agenda rather than science, evidence and a desire to see U.K. industry to flourish,” Engel wrote in her resignation letter to the UK’s Business Minister, as quoted by Bloomberg.
“The [0.5 magnitude] threshold might have had the veneer of wisdom if it were not for the 49 geoscientists who have called for a much higher limit. They are the experts. And yet they are ignored.”
Fracking is a highly controversial topic in the UK, with the governments of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all opposing the practice, awaiting further data about its environmental impact. In England, more than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded, but only one company, Cuadrilla, has received the final go-ahead from the authorities.
Shale gas could be a game changer for the UK, whose offshore gas production is falling short of demand growth, but there is little chance attitudes to fracking are anywhere near changing as Engel’s move suggests.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.