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    UK Gov't Disregards Residents’ Fears, Promotes Potentially Risky Fracking

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    Fracking analysts say that the UK government is making decisions on fracking with no regard to residents' opinions and scientific evidence.

    MOSCOW, January 28 (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko — The UK government is making decisions on fracking with no regard to residents' opinions and scientific evidence, thus potentially putting the health of the population at risk and undermining public trust, fracking analysts told Sputnik Wednesday.

    On Monday, British lawmakers rejected a proposal by the UK Environment Audit Committee to suspend fracking in the United Kingdom with an overwhelming majority, voting 308 to 52 at the debate in the House of Commons. Earlier on Monday UK Prime Minister David Cameron rejected a call for a moratorium on fracking during his visit to Hampshire.

    Residents excluded from decision-making

    "Shale hydrocarbons are being developed as decisions first, asking permission later or never. That is a recipe with potential for major mistakes. Even though it is possible that drilling, fracking, production, and borehole sealing can be achieved safely, residents need to feel included — not excluded," Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, told Sputnik.

    The UK Environment Audit Committee has been pressing for a moratorium due to the negative impact of the shale gas extraction technique on people's health and the environment. On Monday the committee published a report, claiming that the government's infrastructure bill, which would allow tax concessions for fracking companies, may lead to damage Britain's environment, as well as hinder efforts to tackle climate change.

    "I do not really understand why [the voices of those who oppose fracking] are not heard. If I were a politician, I would be willing to listen to all of the evidence… We are just ordinary residents, at the end of the day, but we feel we have just been completely disregarded," Barbara Richardson, chairperson of the anti-fracking Roseacre Awareness Group, told Sputnik.

    Effects of fracking unclear

    The Professor of carbon capture and storage explained that the consequences of fracking development in Britain may be unpredictable even if it proves safe in other countries due to the specificities of the Earth's crust in the United Kingdom.

    "In the UK, it is not clear what the effects of fracking will be. In the USA about 1 million wells have been drilled with high-volume fracturing treatment. However, the geology and stress tension in the Earth's crust is completely different in the United States, from that occurring in the UK where there are many more faults and a lot of tension in the crust due to the still occurring rebound and uplift after the last ice melting from glaciation," Haszeldine explained.

    Moreover, it is still unclear whether Britain has a sufficient number of inspectors to ensure that drilling companies strictly observe the regulations needed to ensure operational safety, according to the expert.

    At the same time, the approach to fracking is not the same in various part of the United Kingdom. Scotland has taken a more cautious stance on the controversial shale gas extraction technique.

    "In Scotland the regional government has a much stronger environmental policy and is not approving fracking at the present time. The Scottish government wishes to obtain a much greater degree of scientific evidence and to investigate the experience of other nations," Haszeldine said, adding that "developers [there] are promising much greater benefits, four percent of pre tax value, for any community which decides to tiptoe in to investigations."

    In the rest of the United Kingdom, however, it is most likely that several boreholes will be drilled and attempted to be fracked by a number of companies, Cuadrilla among them.

    The analyst also noted that in England and Wales fracking is highly experimental due to the lack of experience in shale gas extraction with large volumes of water.

    Fracking is the process of extracting shale gas through the injection of high pressure liquids, including water and various toxic solvents, deep into the ground. It was suspended in the United Kingdom between June 2011 and April 2012 on account of several minor quakes caused by the drilling. However, further research concluded that fracking could be resumed as the risk of earthquakes was deemed to be minimal.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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