To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, how strict the standard of independent monitoring of shale gas fracking will be; and who will undertake that monitoring.
25 February 2015
The Environment Agency (EA) is the regulator for onshore gas operations in England. It requires operators to obtain environmental permits which contain conditions that ensure risks are properly managed and will not allow companies to start work unless they can demonstrate how they will provide a high level of protection for people and the environment. The EA will monitor compliance with permits and take enforcement action if it believes permit conditions have been breached.
The EA undertakes inspections based on its assessment of the risks presented by a particular site. Often the site operator is responsible for environmental monitoring, which the EA then examines to ensure that they are abiding by their permit conditions. In some cases, depending on the risks presented by a site, the EA may undertake extra monitoring itself.
The environmental permits require operators to monitor the emissions from their activities and assess their environmental impact. They do this in order to demonstrate to the EA that pollution is minimised and to comply with the limits specified in their permit. The monitoring must be carried out to recognised standards by competent personnel. The EA recommends that operators do this through its Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS). Operators can choose to use an alternative certified monitoring standard, as long as it is equivalent to the MCERTS standard.
MCERTS is the Environment Agency’s Monitoring Certification Scheme. It provides the framework for businesses to meet EA’s quality requirements. If operators comply with MCERTS, the EA can have confidence in the monitoring of emissions to the environment.
The EA will adopt a compliance assessment plan for each site that sets out how it will measure the operator’s compliance and ensure that environmental risks are properly managed. This may include a variety of methods such as audit, site inspections, check monitoring, sampling, and reviewing operator records and procedures.
In addition, DECC officials are currently developing further measures to provide independent evidence directly to the public about the robustness of the existing regulatory regime, as announced in the Autumn Statement.