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England's Second Fracking Site Given Green Light

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Miriam Aczel

Miriam Aczel

Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute

The controversial technology of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, just had another victory in the North of England. As of last month, fracking may now move forward at the United Kingdom’s second fracking site, Kirby Misperton, following a UK High Court ruling that dismissed environmentalists’ legal challenges.”

Fracking has rapidly expanded in the United States. In 2000, there were 26,000 hydraulically fracked wells, which comprised roughly 7% of the U.S. total gas production, while in 2015, the number of wells had increased to 300,000, or 67% of the country’s gas output. This growth has prompted the U.K., along with other countries, to look into exploiting their own shale gas deposits.

Photo byNorth Yorkshire County, Nilfanion

On December 20, the UK’s High Court ruled against a legal challenge, brought by environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale, that fracking firm Third Energy could use the technology of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas at the Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire County. Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale argued that North Yorkshire’s county council did not consider the climate change impacts of burning natural gas. The proposal to frack was met with much opposition: North Yorkshire’s county council received only 36 letters supporting Third Energy’s fracking proposal and 4,375 objections.

Despite the outpouring of opposition to Third Energy’s plans to extract unconventional shale gas, planners voted 7-4 in favor of the application. Friends of the Earth was fined £10,000 (USD $12,140), while the natural gas company is now approved to test whether the area is suitable for fracking, the first time that permission for fracking activities has been granted in Britain in five years. Third Energy plans to frack the KM 8, an existing well, to determine if shale gas can be “commercially extracted.”

According to Friends of the Earth’s Donna Hume, the judge ruled that North Yorkshire’s councillors had adequately assessed the environmental and climate change impacts. But, according to Ms. Hume," we know that climate change was barely mentioned at that crucial council meeting where the decision to allow fracking was taken, and more damningly, that councillors did not have the information about the total carbon emissions produced from the fracking project."

While Friends of the Earth has said that it will not appeal the decision, this is not likely to be the end of the opposition. According to Greenpeace, “fracking companies shouldn’t underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue,” and according to Frack Free Rydale’s Reverend Jackie Cray, “There is no support in North Yorkshire for this risky industry. We will continue to campaign on behalf of local communities for the sake of our children and their children's health and well-being, and the long-term prosperity of our area.”

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