A Fylde MP has called for regulation and monitoring around fracking to be tightened up ahead of any decision to allow it to go ahead.
Mark Menzies made the call after taking part in a Commons debate about the controversial method of extracting natural gas from dEep lying shale rock using high pressure water and chemicals.
Energy company Cuadrilla has applied for planning permission to drill and test frack for gas at two sites in his constituency, at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood.
Mr Menzies said: “I have said from the outset that I believe this should be subject to the strictest regulatory regime and I am continuing to push for greater efforts in that regard, as I said during this week’s debate.
“Regulation for the shale gas industry is split between the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
“Ministers have assured me that should the industry develop, a Government levy on operators will be introduced to provide the necessary funding for regulators so that they are able to respond to any increased demands.
“I am still not convinced that the Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil is sufficiently resourced to fulfil its original remit.
“It is for this reason during the debate I called for an independent body headed by a panel of experts which would oversee work done by the regulators and act as a scrutinising mechanism to ensure the appropriate regulations are in place and are being enforced.
“In addition I reiterated my request to see regular, unannounced inspections of sites by regulators at every stage of their development, not just relying on submitted reports from the operators.
“With that in mind, I have asked that the Health and Safety Executive have a permanent presence in Lancashire, should planning permission for shale gas exploration be granted.”
Patricia Davies, from the Preston New Road Action Group, said: “I am pleased that Mark Menzies is calling for stricter regulation.
“It is crucial that no site for exploratory shale gas drilling gets planning permission or goes ahead until the regulations are truly robust, in force, and not merely guidelines of good practice.”
Bob Dennett, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Green Party, said: “It would be clearly wrong for shale gas operations to go ahead unregulated.
“If shale gas goes ahead and is only marginally profitable then there will be a drive for hundreds of wells across the Fylde peninsula which could bring devastating potential damage to human health and the environment.”
Cuadrilla ‘happy’ for extra regulation plans
A Cuadrilla spokesperson said: “We believe that shale gas extraction can be conducted safely and securely and the UK has in place robust and rigorous regulation from an environmental and health and safety perspective to ensure that is the case. “We will continue to work closely with all the regulators involved and believe at this early stage of exploration they are properly resourced, however if the industry moves into a wider scale production phase we would welcome increased regulatory resources.”