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Labour attempts to strengthen regulation of UK fracking

The Labour Party has submitted amendments to the Lords infrastructure bill that would tighten rules for companies drilling for shale gas, The Guardian has reported.

The Labour party believes the rules covering fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – for gas are not tight enough and has attempted to strengthen regulation of the controversial drilling method by tabling a series of amendments to the infrastructure bill.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) says there are adequate safeguards covering drilling for shale gas under existing rules or voluntary agreements. However, Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, believes current agreements do not go far enough.

The opposition wants to see well-by-well disclosure of the fracking fluid being pumped into the well, baseline monitoring of methane levels in the groundwater and environmental impact assessments for all fracking sites.

Public unease about drilling for shale gas has already led to substantial protest, despite hopes that new energy supplies could counter the need for imports as North Sea production continues to fall.

Matthew Hancock, the business and energy minister, said speeding up shale would mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for the country.

Decc said a series of measures had been put in place to ensure shale could be drilled safely and cover all the issues raised by Labour.

However, Labour said commitments from the industry were not strong enough to reassure the public.

National Grid, which looks after the pipes and pylons in England and Wales, believes a third of Britain’s gas could come from its own shale by the early 2030s if appropriate government policies are put in place.

However, fears about the potentially dangerous impact of fracking, where chemicals are pumped into the ground to help extract the natural gas, have prompted bans on the practice in France and elsewhere.

Interest continues to grow in other countries such as China, Russia and Mexico, after the huge finds in America that have led to sharp falls in the price of natural gas and triggered a wave of industrial investment.

British shale exploration is being pioneered by small firms such as Cuadrilla Resources and IGas, but larger companies are also beginning to show interest.

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