Minister rejects fracking water risk claim

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There is no evidence from the United States to suggest a risk of underground water contamination as a result of fracking, a Conservative energy minister has claimed.

Michael Fallon said the drilling process to extract shale gas takes place below groundwater levels and so gasses could not escape into the water and contaminate it.

The government has set out plans to make fracking for shale gas easier in Britain, including by allowing firms to drill under homes without the owner's permission.

The minister's comments came in reply to Labour front bencher Tom Greatrex, who called on the government to monitor the baseline levels of methane in groundwater.

"Given that groundwater can contain methane naturally, could you explain why it is, more than two and a half years after it being raised with your predecessors, it's still the case the regulations do not include the baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater, given that some of the concerns from the US and elsewhere is of contamination in that way?" he asked.

"Surely it's important now that we have that as part of the regulation to ensure confidence in the regulatory regime for shale gas?"

Mr Fallon replied: "There are no examples from the United States of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater because as you will appreciate the fracturing takes place very much deeper than any groundwater levels.

"But I'm very happy to look at the specific point that you mention about baseline monitoring."

Fracking - short for "hydraulic fracturing" - involves drilling deep underground and releasing a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside.

The government says it will boost the UK's economy but critics are concerned about potential risks to the environment.

Other topics raised during the question session covered competition in energy markets, financial support for solar PV, and the UK's energy security.

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