Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have welcomed an announcement that the Government is to create a new watchdog to oversee shale gas exploration.
During his Autumn Statement last Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne announced the creation of an ‘Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil’, a new Government body which will oversee and regulate plans for shale gas exploration and extraction, commonly known as ‘fracking’.
Local Conservatives have said they hope the creation of a new regulatory watchdog will provide clarity to over where shale gas extraction is deemed to be safe and acceptable and provide reassurance on the science behind hydraulic fracturing.
Announcing the Government’s Gas Generation Strategy, Liberal Democrat Energy Minister Ed Davey said: “Gas will provide a cleaner source of energy than coal, and will ensure we can keep the lights on as increasing amounts of wind and nuclear come online through the 2020s. The strategy we set out today follows extensive consultation and is consistent with meeting our legislated carbon budgets and with significant decarbonisation of the power sector.”
Councillor Geoff Ward, Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, said:
“We welcome the Government’s decision to establish a regulatory watchdog to oversee the shale gas industry. As the Government’s report states, if done safely shale gas clearly has the potential to offer a significant economic opportunity to the UK and to keep energy prices down.
“However, there is also understandable concern amongst local resdidents about such a new technology. In particular, we would want to see firm reassurance over its safety before any application is granted within Bath and North East Somerset, and particularly if such an application could have an impact upon spa waters or is within the vicinity of Chew Valley Lake.”
The Government’s Gas Strategy emphasises that shale gas extraction is currently very much at the exploratory stage and that production is not anticipated until the later part of the decade.