The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, has green-lit the resumption of fracking in the UK.

The controversial practice was halted in the UK after it was confirmed that the process caused two earthquakes. However, the government is now satisfied that it can continue subject to new controls designed to mitigate the risks of seismic activity.  

Commenting on the news, Davey said: “Shale gas represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low carbon economy.

“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 still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.”

The discovery of significant shale gas reserves in America has led to a dramatic reduction in energy costs for the country. However, DECC is unsure of the amount of available unconventional gas. Environmental groups have been critical over government’s increasing reliance on gas in the UK’s future energy mix. A number have warned that the volatile nature of wholesale gas prices could lead to unsustainably high energy prices.   

Leila Deen, Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace, criticised the decision to lift the moratorium, stating: “George Osborne's dream of building Dallas in Lancashire is dangerous fantasy. He is not JR Ewing and this is not the US. Energy analysts agree the UK cannot replicate the American experience of fracking, and that shale gas will do little or nothing to lower bills.

“Pinning the UK’s energy hopes on an unsubstantiated, polluting fuel is a massive gamble and consumers and the climate will end up paying the price.”

In order for fracking to be given the go-ahead on a site, developers will have to adhere to a number of new controls, including: an intensive review of the seismic risk and existence of faults of the proposed site. A fracking plan must be submitted to DECC showing how any seismic risks will be addressed. A seismic monitoring must be carried out before, during and after fracking. Finally, a new traffic light system will be implemented that will catagorise seismic activity and direct appropriate responses including a trigger mechanism that will stop fracking.

Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Communities at the Environment Agency, concluded: “The Environment Agency takes the potential risks arising from fracking for shale gas extraction very seriously and has undertaken a thorough assessment of them.

“We are satisfied that existing regulations are sufficient to protect people and the environment in the current exploratory phase. We have also established a Shale Gas Unit to act as a single point of contact for industry to ensure there is an effective, streamlined approach for the regulations that fall within our responsibility.”