Victory for green groups follows damning scientific study and criticism from spending watchdog
The government has banned fracking with immediate effect in a watershed moment for environmentalists and community activists.
Ministers also warned shale gas companies it would not support future fracking projects, in a crushing blow to companies that had been hoping to capitalise on one of the new frontiers of growth in the fossil fuel industry.
The decision draws a line under years of bitter opposition to the controversial extraction process in a major victory for green groups and local communities.
The decision was taken after a new scientific study warned it was not possible to rule out “unacceptable” consequences for those living near fracking sites.
The report, undertaken by the Oil and B Authority (OGA), also warned it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger.
B, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.
The government said it would not agree to any future fracking “until compelling new evidence is provided” that proves fracking could be safe. The UK’s only active fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire was brought to an immediate halt this summer after B that breached the government’s earthquake limits.
Andrea Leadsom, the business and energy secretary, said the government has always been clear that shale gas exploration in the UK must be carried out safely.
“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community. For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect,” she said.
The ban marks a major U-turn for the Conservative party and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who once referred to fracking as “glorious news for humanity” and urged the UK to “leave no stone unturned, or unfracked” in pursuit of shale gas.
The government ended its support for the struggling industry less than a week after a damning report from Whitehall’s spending watchdog found its plans to establish fracking across the UK was dragging years behind schedule and had cost the taxpayer at least £32m so far without producing any energy in return.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said it has “been clear for some time that the government’s big bet on fracking is bust”.
The decision has been welcomed as a “victory for common sense” by green groups and campaigners who have fought for almost a decade against the controversial fossil fuel extraction process.
Craig Bennett, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said: “This moratorium is a tremendous victory for communities and the climate. For nearly a decade local people across the country have fought a David and Goliath battle against this powerful industry. We are proud to have been part of that fight.”
Tom Fyans, from CPRE, said the countryside charity would “celebrate alongside the local communities, campaigners and environmentalists who have been campaigning valiantly to stop fracking for many years”.