The official UK advocate for shale-gas development has resigned in protest of “a de facto ban” on hydraulic fracturing.
Natascha Engel, a former Labor Party member of Parliament, complained in her resignation letter to Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy, of “ridiculously low” seismicity thresholds at which fracing must be halted.
One operator, Cuadrilla Resources, has had to suspend operations repeatedly in Northwest England because of tremors reaching the conservative regulatory limit of magnitude 0.5 (OGJ Online, Dec. 12, 2018).
After losing the parliamentary seat she held for 12 years in a 2017 election, Engel wrote a pamphlet supporting hydraulic fracturing under contract from Ineos.
The Conservative government named her commissioner of shale last October to foster communication among operators, local communities, and regulators.
Fracing is controversial in the UK and has been stymied or banned outright outside of England.
In her resignation letter, Engel criticized the government for “pandering to what we know to be myths and scare stories” about shale gas extraction, according to BBC.
In a statement, Cuadrilla Chief Executive Officer Francis Egan endorsed Engel’s assessment.
“Instead of embracing this huge opportunity [in potential shale gas development) we remain wedded to a miniscule microseismic threshold which has no scientific basis and is without parallel anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Meanwhile other industries—including key government projects like Crossrail, quarrying operations, and geothermal—produce ground vibrations far in excess every working day.
“The situation is beyond ridiculous. It’s embarrassing.”