UPDATED: Environmental campaigners turned their anger on the United Kingdom's Labour party Monday after a vote to impose a moratorium on fracking activity in the U.K. was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 308 to 52.
Labour did not back the move after securing more than a dozen amendments from the government which will result in more regulation of the shale gas sector, but not halt the practice.
Calls for a moratorium had been backed by the Environment Audit Committee (EAC), which outlined in a report its concerns over the impact fracking would have on areas where drilling for shale gas would take place.
Ineos, the chemicals giant which plans to undertake test drilling for shale gas in the U.K., had lambasted the EAC document prior to the vote, arguing the committee “didn't look hard enough at the massive decline in the UK's manufacturing base and the country's desperate need for shale gas to reduce energy costs and revitalise industry”.
Speaking after the vote, Tom Crotty, a director at Ineos, said a moratorium would have been a “disaster” for the UK.
“This country is running into an energy crisis. We have got very, very low gas supplies and very low storage space. It would not take much to tip us over the edge,” he told City AM.
The EAC report concluded that the process of fracking — the process of pumping a blend of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release shale gas deposits — was not compatible with the United Kingdom's long-term commitment to cut climate changing emissions “unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely.”
The report warned that “considerable uncertainties” remained about the hazards fracking posed to groundwater quality, air quality, health and biodiversity.
However the U.K. government, which wants to go “all out for shale gas,” said shale development is compatible with the country's goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“It does not detract from our support for renewables, in fact it could support development of intermittent renewables,” said a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change. “To meet our challenging climate targets we will need significant quantities of renewables, nuclear and gas in our energy mix.”
A number of companies have applied to conduct preliminary searches for shale gas.