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Image: Day Donaldson

When fracking isn’t fracking

The UK government’s claim that fracked gas is a ‘clean, low carbon transition fuel’ rests solely on the tight regulations designed to avoid the mistakes made in the USA.

It appears, however, that potential drillers are deterred by such heavy-handed regulation.  Even operating under the Wild West conditions seen in the USA, there are serious questions about the profitability of UK shale gas.  Under UK and EU regulations investors may well decide to pull out of fracking altogether.

To get around this problem, the highly pro-fracking UK government has come up with a new wheeze – invent a legal definition of fracking that doesn’t include… er… fracking!

This is what Prof Stuart Haszeldine at University of Edinburgh accuses the UK government of doing in new regulations that came into force last week.  As Damian Carrington in the Guardian notes:

“Fracking in the UK is defined in the new law as ‘the injection of more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage (or expected stage), or the injection of more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total’.

“The safety regulations in the new rules, such as independent inspection of the integrity of the well and sealing it after use, only apply if the drilling activity is defined as fracking. However, the only well fracked in the UK so far, which caused small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011, would not qualify as fracking under the definition. “

This loophole effectively hands the drillers a free pass to avoid regulation, leaving the British public to clear up the mess after they have made their money and moved on.  Once again, the UK government’s claims to be “the greenest government ever” lies in ruins as the profits of the few are put far ahead of the needs of the many.

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