Fracking tsar quits role after six months with blast at environmental activists' influence on Government

Posted On: 
28th April 2019

The UK’s fracking tsar has quit her post just after six months as she accused the Government of pandering to environmental activists.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion staging an anti-fracking protest in Westminster last year
Credit: 
PA Images

Shale gas commissioner Natascha Engel wrote a damning resignation letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark in which she said the Government was wasting a “perfectly viable industry” because it is being driven “by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish”.

The former Labour MP also hit out at fracking rules designed to prevent mini earthquakes, arguing it was placing a “de facto ban” on the controversial practice.

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Currently drilling is suspended when 0.5 earth magnitude tremors are recorded.

In her resignation letter she said: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.”

Ms Engel added: “We know shale gas can be extracted safely. We have the best regulations and regulators in the world. We know the positive impact it has on local communities, but we are choosing to listen to a powerful environmental lobby campaigning against fracking rather than allowing science and evidence to guide our policy making.”

Critics of fracking including activist group Extinction Rebellion believe the extraction process is damaging to the environment, and furthers the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Ministers hoped Ms Engel’s role would boost confidence in the sector by a offering a direct link between local communities, the fracking industry and its regulators.

In a statement the Government said it was “confident” that current regulations “strike the right balance in ensuring the industry can develop, while ensuring any operations are carried out safely and responsibly".