Peers desperate to get Britain fracking

Members of the Lords are giving ministers the green light to strip back environmental regulation of fracking, in a move which has deeply alarmed anti-shale gas campaigners.

Peers on the Lords' economic affairs committee said they backed the government's pledge to go 'all out for shale' in a report embracing the resource's potential to improve Britain's energy security, economy and climate change performance.

They complained that the Environment Agency has not received or approved a single application for exploratory drilling since the moratorium on drilling was lifted in 2012.

"The government has made attempts to simplify the regulatory regime for development of shale but these measures have not gone far enough," committee chair Lord MacGregor said.

"Our report shows that unnecessary duplication and diffusion of authority are still rife throughout the regulatory process."

He called on ministers to do more to simplify regulation in an attempt to ensure exploratory drilling can go ahead.

"Regulation around shale should be robust, but should move quickly and be easy to understand," he insisted.

The Environment Agency, which is preparing to regulate Britain's nascent shale gas industry, has been making clear to the companies involved it will force them to follow a rigorous regime.

Insiders have been told they will have to meet strict criteria in a bid to ensure groundwater contamination does not result from the hydraulic fracturing process, which involves thousands of gallons of water filled with chemicals being pumped into the ground.

"Although unsurprised we are disappointed that the Lords are choosing to support an industry that is largely self-regulated, is causing umpteen public health and land/water contamination problems in the USA, and is likely to bring misery for many residents up and down the UK," the Residents Action on Fylde Fracking group said.

"Their blinkered and short-sighted attitude is doing a grave disservice to our communities, and ignores the huge groundswell of objections and concerns from ordinary citizens across the UK who are doing their own research and coming to very different conclusions."

The group gave evidence to the Lords committee last year when, it claimed, it found the committee's questioning to be "largely aggressive and pro-shale".