Fracking U-turn over wildlife reserves

As many of you know, the environment secretary is keen to have fracking in Britain. Fracking is a contentious issue in itself but new government proposals are advocating fracking in 3 nature reserves and 53 sites of special scientific interest (SSSI)

Nature reserves have certain safeguards in place for fracking ,but not a ban. Companies will still be allowed to construct wells, build production structures and conduct fracking at depths deeper than 1200m. Crucially however, the government has removed SSSI from the list of protected areas meaning that fracking can now occur in areas which are currently havens for wildlife.

A fraction of the devastation caused by fracking.

This removal of protection for SSSI has lead to a great deal of condemnation and shock from groups such as the RSPB. It certainly appears that if you are able to remove protection for SSSI, and allow complete devastation to occur, then the designation is somewhat meaningless. Only around 35% of SSSI are currently deemed to be in “favourable” condition and so the SSSI protection was supposed to help improve these areas for wildlife and to keep wildlife safe. Fracking will simply desolate these areas. It remains to be seen whether or not the protection was removed, as the government does not value SSSI at all or because some were deemed good sites for fracking which is evidently valued more highly than SSSI.

What is arguably worse is the U-turn taken by the government. In January of 2015 the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, announced. “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest”. To remove protection and reversewhat was initially a good decision leads many to question if the government have really thought this issue through at all.

Fracking has occurred in the United States and, notably in Arkansaw, it lead to several thousand earthquakes resulting in homes being evacuated. Why the government has deemed that any area, much less SSSI’s and nature reserves, are acceptable for this procedure is rather had to fathom. Even “successful” fracking leads to high amounts of building work, excavation, and emissions which make it very difficult for Britain to reach its carbon targets.

In terms of wildlife, things do not look good. Fracking uses many harmful chemicals, which are pumped into the ground, to force gas to the surface. Around 40,000 gallons of fluid are pumped into the ground for every fracturing. This means every new attempt to extract gas means pumping this much fluid into the ground. Not surprisingly this fluid it toxic to plants, animals and humans. In many cases the earthquakes caused by fracking have lead to ruptures in oil and gas pipes. This would be highly polluting anyway but fracking extracts methane gas, which is a particular potent greenhouse gas. This makes the environmental damage extremely high for every accident.

Whichever way you look at it destroying areas abundant in wildlife to produce fuel, which causes pollution which further damages the wildlife, does not seem like a good deal

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Scott Thomson
Recent ecology and conservation graduate. My blog is here https://wildchatblog.wordpress.com/
Scott Thomson

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