The Department of Energy and Climate Change has today published a report which recommends a raft of measures designed to mitigate the risks of fracking, after a comprehensive review determined that shale gas drilling caused minor earthquakes.

The report, authored by scientists from Keele University, GFrac Technologies, and the British Geological Survey confirms that minor earthquakes detected in the area of the Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall operations near Blackpool in April and May last year were caused by fracking. The report recommends that an effective monitoring system and traffic light control regime should be implemented before drilling is restarted.

DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor, David MacKay commented: “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts.”

“This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”

Rhian Kelly, CBI Director for Business Environment policy, welcomed the news: “Government has signalled that gas should play a big part in moving to a low-carbon economy, so it makes sense to explore new gas sources here, rather than increasingly depend on sources from elsewhere in the world.

“Provided safety standards are observed, shale gas could unlock significant new infrastructure investments, help meet our carbon reduction goals and create many new jobs around the UK.”

DECC is inviting comments on the report from the public. The consultation period will run for six weeks from today. However, a number of concerned commentators have already expressed dismay at DECC’s willingness to pursue the controversial procedure.

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, said: “We don't need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs – we need a seismic shift in energy policy. There should be a full scientific assessment of all the impacts of fracking – a short consultation on one of the problems is completely inadequate.”

Responding to the news, the Renewable Energy Association's Chief Executive, Gaynor Hartnell, said: “Before Government pins its hopes on shale gas, it should look at all the potential implications, not just whether it can be extracted without causing mini earth tremors.  There is no justification for this to undermine the case for renewables.

“Globally, renewables are being deployed at a faster rate than any other energy technologies, and for good reason.  The UK needs to get firmly on the path to a renewable future and not be left behind.  Whilst Nick Clegg sends a strong message on this, the overall impression is that Government risks getting distracted by other potential options such as nuclear, carbon capture & storage and now shale gas.”

Atkins concluded: “We should be developing the huge potential of clean British energy from the sun, wind and waves, not more dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.”