In a surprise move – and major moment for environmentalists and activists – the UK government announced last week that it is halting fracking in England, to go into effect immediately.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously claimed fracking was “glorious news for humanity,” but now his government has determined that the ban will remain until there is “compelling new evidence” that it can be practiced safely.
The decision came after a scientific report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) concluded that it was not possible to rule out “unacceptable consequences for those living near fracking sites” and that there was no way to predict the magnitude of earthquakes that fracking might trigger.
“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community. For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect,” said Andrew Leadsom, business and energy secretary.
Fracking is not as prominent in the UK as it is currently in the United States. There is only one active fracking site in the country, in northwestern England.
Green groups welcomed the decision but are not giving up on pushing the government to an “absolute commitment” to ban fracking outright.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, claims that the government’s moratorium is only a temporary pause and “an election stunt to try and win a few votes.” Corbyn also stated that his party would ban fracking permanently.
Fracking sites in Britain have been suspended on a case by case basis after seismic activity. In August, the only active fracking site in Britain, near the town of Blackpool, was hit with a series of earthquakes, causing operations to be suspended for several days.
In addition to environmental groups, many British citizens are hailing the decision after news broke less than a week ago that fracking in the UK was years behind schedule and had cost taxpayers at least £32m so far without producing any energy in return.
Fracking, which is the process of pumping water, chemicals, and sand at high pressure underground in order to break up shale rock and release trapped oil and gas, has been linked to earthquakes, polluted air and water, and potentially numerous health problems for nearby community members.