Fracking planning laws should be relaxed say ministers

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The plan also includes the creation of a Shale Environmental Regulator, a new watchdog bringing together the work now done by the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority.

The British government announced new measures on Thursday to speed up shale gas planning applications to support the development of the industry in Britain.

However, it is impossible to know exactly how much shale gas might be underground - and, more importantly, how much can be extracted - until fracking has started in earnest.

The announcement has been welcomed by the shale gas industry.

"The government's plans pervert the planning process and could make England's landscape a wild west for whatever cowboy wants to start drilling and digging up our countryside".

Clark said the government acknowledged regulation around shale gas developments was "complex" with three regulators - the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority - all having responsibilities for regulation.

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The Scottish government outlawed fracking a year ago after a public consultation found overwhelming opposition to it.

"The Government remains fully committed to making planning decisions faster and fairer for all those affected by new development, and to ensure that local communities are fully involved in planning decisions that affect them", the ministers said. This will include setting up a Shale Environmental Regulator and new Planning Brokerage Service which would focus exclusively on the planning process and will have no role in the consideration or determination of planning applications.

Cuadrilla Resources - which completed the first vertical shale gas exploration well in the United Kingdom for six years earlier this year and is now working on horizontal wells - said the government recognized that shale gas can deliver important economic benefits.

We welcome the Government's strong support and commitment to the onshore gas industry says Third Energy boss. "These timelines must improve if the country is to benefit from its own, much needed, indigenous source of gas". If we're serious about building an economy fit for the future we need to reprogramme our energy system to one which harnesses the power of the sun, sea and wind - rather than throwing resources at this failed fracking experiment. Imported gas now costs over £13 million a day - money that is not generating jobs or tax revenues in this country.

It looks like, after seven years, the battle over the future of the United Kingdom fracking industry is still a long way from being decided.

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