The government said on Thursday that a controversial shale gas extraction method known as fracking should resume in Britain, despite the fact that it is suspected of having triggered earthquakes.
Exploratory fracking can restart under tight controls to “mitigate the risks of seismic activity”, Energy Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement.
The British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources had been forced to halt drilling trials on Lancashire’s Fylde coast in June last year. Its work was thought to have caused a 2.3-magnitude tremor in April 2011 and a 1.5-magnitude tremor in May.
But Davey said Thursday: “My decision is based on the evidence.
“It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field.
“We are strengthening the stringent regime already in place with new controls around seismic risks,” he added.
“And as the industry develops we will remain vigilant to all emerging evidence to ensure fracking is safe and the local environment is protected.”
Davey said shale gas was a “promising new potential energy resource” for Britain which could contribute to energy security and reduce the reliance on imported gas.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting chemicals, water and sand into underground shale rock formations to release trapped natural gas.
Opponents say it causes water pollution but energy groups say it provides access to considerable new gas reserves and could drive down prices.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the creation of a new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil to simplify regulation of the sector and speed up production as part of his Autumn Statement on December 5.