No plan to relax fracking regulations, says minister

A worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton Image copyright PA
Image caption Energy and Clean Growth minister Claire Perry said while she hoped fracking can thrive, regulations "must be safe"

Ministers have "no intention of altering" fracking regulations which have repeatedly halted work in Lancashire, it has emerged.

Shale firm Cuadrilla has called on the government to raise the threshold of seismic activity at which fracking must stop. It is currently 0.5 magnitude.

It has had to stop operations numerous times for breaching the limit at its site in Little Plumpton, Lancashire.

The government said fracking "must be safe and environmentally sound".

Under the government's "traffic light system" thresholds, Cuadrilla has paused fracking on a number of occasions since it began the process at its Preston New Road site on 15 October.

In a letter in November from Energy and Clean Growth minister Claire Perry to Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan in response to calls for an urgent review, Ms Perry wrote: "While I hope the industry can thrive in the years ahead, I have always been clear that any shale developments must be safe and environmentally sound."

She said when developing and reviewing the company's hydraulic fracture plan "at no point did you communicate... it would not be possible to proceed without a change in regulations".

She added: "The government believes the current system is fit for purpose and has no intention of altering it."

Dr Doug Parr, from Greenpeace UK, said: "It makes no sense for ministers to fritter away more political capital on an industry which has produced no energy whatsoever and looks increasing unlikely ever to do so.

"The message this letter delivers is that there's a limit to the unpopularity the government is willing to court to sort out Cuadrilla's problems."

He called for ministers to reverse their support for shale and speed up a clean energy infrastructure programme for the UK.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Drilling started at the Little Plumpton site on 15 October

A spokesman for Cuadrilla said it was aware of the government's position on the traffic light system.

"We have worked within the system during recent hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road and as a result have a unique data set of information and operating experience.

"We are now flow-testing the well that has been fractured and are continuing operations as planned."

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