LONDON (AP) — The U.K. government formally confirmed Thursday that it's lifting a ban on fracking in England, arguing that the move will help boost the country's energy security amid Russia's war in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Liz Truss announced within days of taking office earlier this month that she would reverse a 2019 ban on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique used to extract oil and gas from shale rock.
Britain needs to “explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realize any potential sources of domestic gas,” business and energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said Thursday.
Truss said she “will not be going ahead with anything that carries a risk," but stressed that "energy security is vital.”
The U.K. government suspended fracking in November 2019, saying it wasn't possible to accurately predict tremors associated with the drilling.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said lifting the ban means future applications will be considered “where there is local support." Developers will need to have the necessary licences and permissions before they can commence operations.
Environmental groups have long opposed the practice of fracking, saying it's not an effective way to generate energy, doesn't help lower steeply rising energy bills, and is opposed by communities wherever it is attempted.
"Even when the government went ‘all out for shale’, the frackers produced no energy for the U.K. but managed to create two holes in a muddy field, traffic, noise and a colossal amount of controversy,” Greenpeace energy security campaigner Philip Evans said.
A government-commissioned review on the risks of shale gas extraction by the British Geological Survey was inconclusive, saying more data was needed. Officials argued that the “limited current understanding of U.K. geology and onshore shale resources” shouldn't be a barrier to fracking.
“It is clear that we need more sites drilled in order to gather better data and improve the evidence base, and we are aware that some developers are keen to assist with this process,” a statement from the government's business department said.
“Lifting the pause on shale gas extraction will enable drilling to gather this further data, building an understanding of U.K. shale gas resources and how we can safely carry out shale gas extraction in the U.K. where there is local support.”