The chairman of the Environment Agency has given his support to the expansion of fracking in Britain. Lord Smith of Finsbury said he believed the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale rock could be done safely, despite environmental concerns. Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he supported fracking, the Labour peer said: “It’s a yes from me, with a big if attached.”
Lord Smith also said that decisions about the development of such energies are “challenging”, but that the UK must act quickly to secure an advantage over other countries and meet the UK’s ambitious CO2 targets.
Anti-fracking campaigners reacted angrily. Blackpool and Fylde Green party chair Philip Mitchell, said: “In his statement, Lord Smith doesn’t substantiate his personal opinions with any evidence that it is possible for fracking to be introduced into Britain safely. It is a sad reflection of our society that such a senior figure has agreed to being interviewed whilst an official public consultation on the subject is still open, and therefore before he has had an opportunity to listen to whatever comments can be made in the desperately short period that has so far been allowed.”
Not surprisingly, Friends of the Earth weren’t happy over his comments. Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Tony Bosworth said, “Lord Smith rightly highlights the unknown environmental impacts of fracking – until it’s proven to be safe, this technology should be shelved in the UK as it has been elsewhere in the world.
“We know 85 per cent of people want to see more clean British energy, not gas – Ministers should focus on this instead of backing technologies which are unproven or, like nuclear, are consistently late and reliant on vast public subsidies.
“The Government’s plans for the electricity market must ensure that renewable energy fills the gap caused by the closure of power stations and the collapse of nuclear investment – this will boost our economy by creating thousands of new jobs.”