Fears up to 2,100 fracking rigs could be created in Somerset
Environmental campaigners have raised the spectre of up to 2,100 fracking wells being created across the former Somerset coalfields.
A series of public meetings have been held to raise awareness of what plans to carry out shale gas drilling could mean for local communities.
More than 30 people attended a meeting in Midsomer Norton to hear from national campaign group Frack Off and Frack-Free Somerset about hydraulic fracturing, coal bed methane and unconventional gas drilling.
The meetings are part of a month of action called Frack-Free February organised in response to planning applications and other proposals for gas extraction.
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UK Methane, which owns licences for an area covering Midsomer Norton, Peasedown St John and Chew Magna, recently withdrew a planning application to test drill on land near Hicks Gate on the edge of Keynsham, saying it was likely to go straight to a full production application.
Edward Lloyd-Davies, of Frack Off, produced estimates of the potential extent of drilling in Somerset based on information being given to investors from UK Methane’s Australian parent company.
He claimed this indicated the possibility of up to 2,100 drilling sites with extensive gas pipelines across the countryside if permission was granted, which he said would “industrialise the rural landscape”.
He also raised concerns about water table contamination, seismic activity and the disposal of gallons of contaminated water once it has been used.
The next meeting is at Blagdon Village Club on Thursday, February 28, between 7pm and 9pm.
North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was “cautiously in favour” of fracking but would be reserving final judgement until a government report is published, which he expects to reveal that there are significantly more shale gas reserves than previously thought.
Mr Rees-Mogg added: “If so it will be important to investigate the opportunities this could bring through lower energy costs for both industry and consumers.
“Energy poverty could be practically eliminated. Thus I remain cautiously in favour subject to further evidence becoming available.”