LONDON (Reuters) - The British government’s fracking tsar Natascha Engel said on Sunday she had quit the role after just six months because government policy was preventing the industry from developing.
Fracking, or hydraulically fracturing, involves extracting gas from rocks by breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.
It is fiercely opposed by environmentalists who have raised concerns about potential groundwater contamination and say extracting more fossil fuel is at odds with Britain’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Engel, who was appointed the Commissioner for Shale Gas to act as a link between local communities, the industry and regulators, said that forcing fracking to stop every time there is a micro-tremor “amounts to a de facto ban on fracking”.
“We are choosing to listen to a powerful environmental lobby campaigning against fracking rather than allowing science and evidence to guide our policy making. By staying silent, we are in danger of pandering to what we know to be myths and scare stories,” Engel said in her resignation letter.
Earlier this year chemical giant Ineos and fracking firm Cuadrilla said current restrictions around seismic events at fracking sites could force the industry to close. The government has said it has no plans to review the regulations.
Under the so-called traffic light system, fracking must be paused for 18 hours following any seismic event of magnitude 0.5 or above, something which forced Cuadrilla to halt its operations several times last year.
“Shale gas could still have an exciting future in the UK but for that to be the case, the traffic light system needs to be reviewed quickly or the limits changed to reflect the measurements used in every other extractive industry,” Engel said.
“In the absence of that, a perfectly viable industry is wasted.”
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle