Fears over ‘threat’ of gas drilling after Government approves licenses

The Mendip Hills (Picture: Simon Williams).

The Mendip Hills (Picture: Simon Williams). - Credit: Sub

SEVEN licenses to search for gas in North Somerset, including in Weston, have been approved by the Government.

The seven blocks of land were offered to energy companies in September by the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority.

The blocks, which each cover a 10km by 10km area, could eventually be used as sites where companies can carry out the oil and gas mining technique fracking.

The Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences, which are in Weston, Hutton and Brean, do not give direct permission for a company to begin drilling, but gives them exclusivity over the land to explore for gas and oil.

South Western Energy Limited has been given exclusivity over North Somerset’s blocks, but it will need to apply for permission to begin the work.

Fracking involves drilling into the ground before a water mixture is forced down at high pressure.

It creates cracks in the rocks, releasing shale gas which is then used for energy.

Campaigners argue fracking causes air pollution, water contamination and health risks.

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A spokesman for campaign group Frack Free Somerset said: “Frack Free Somerset is concerned that the seven new licences in North Somerset, just south of Clevedon, through Weston, via Steart marshes, Hinkley Point and onto the edge of Exmoor National Park, pose an enormous threat to the communities and wildlife along the North Somerset coastline.”

In December, the Government signed up to a global pledge to decrease the amount of carbon emissions to help to reduce global warming.

The Government’s Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “Last month we set out the vital role gas will play in the UK’s transition to a low-carbon future.

“The licences offered today move us a step closer – driving forwards this industry which will provide secure, home-grown energy to hardworking families and businesses for decades to come.”

The House of Commons will debate the effect of fracking on January 29.