To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what steps his Department is taking to prevent groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
5 March 2015
Before any oil or gas operation can begin in the UK, operators must gain a permit from the relevant environmental regulator (such as the Environment Agency in England). Exactly which permits they need depends on the activities proposed and site specific circumstances such as location, and is determined by the Environmental Agency (EA). The EA will require operators to have a groundwater permit unless they can demonstrate that there will be no, or a trivial, impact on groundwater (this is known as the “de minimis” exclusion). In all other cases, they will require a permit to regulate any actual impact on groundwater or the risk of an impact.
The EA also requires operators to disclose the chemicals they propose to use and the maximum concentration of each one before granting environmental permits. The EA assesses the hazards presented by fracking fluid additives on a case-by-case basis and will not allow substances hazardous to groundwater to be used where they may enter groundwater and cause pollution. Information on chemical substances and their maximum concentrations is included within the environmental permit, along with any other monitoring requirements. The permit is placed on the public register.
In addition, the Infrastructure Act 2015 makes it clear that hydraulic fracturing activity associated with onshore oil and gas exploitation cannot take place within protected groundwater source areas. Protected groundwater source areas will be defined in regulations by the end of July.