Fracking should take place in Sussex, Energy Minister says (theargus.co.uk)

arguslogo2013Fracking should take place in Sussex, the Energy Minister says.

Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks in Kent, said households “right across the south” of England should prepare for hydraulic fracturing in their areas.

He vowed to tackle “myths” around the controversial extraction process, which involves blasting water and chemicals underground to release reserves of gas trapped in shale rock.

Environmental activists are bitterly opposed to the “dirty” technique, which they say can increase climate change, cause small earthquakes and pollute water supplies.

But the Government backs action to exploit the reserves, which it claims could help bring down energy bills and create thousands of jobs.

Mr Fallon said: “There are genuine concerns, but there are also myths and we are tackling them.

“It’s right across the south we’re talking about: Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent.”

Celtique Energie has applied to explore for oil and gas in Wisborough Green, near Billingshurst, and Fernhurst.

Wisborough Green Parish Council recently voted unanimously to reject the application and a public consultation into the application has received 700 objections and just five in support.

West Sussex County Council will decide on the application early in the new year.

Energy firmCuadrilla has tested for gas in Balcombe and is submitting another planning application for additional welltesting.

Kathryn McWhirter, of No Fracking in Balcombe Society, said: “We in Balcombe experienced the noise of drilling and endless convoys of heavy traffic.

“Imagine the fresh water that will be wasted if Fallon achieves his dream of thousands of wells across our countryside, water that will return to the surface radioactive, laced with chemicals and heavy metals from the depths – too polluted to clean and restore to the water cycle.”

Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “Shale gas is not the solution to our energy problems – it’s dirty, a threat to local communities and experts warn it won’t lead to cheaper fuel bills.”

A recent report by Public Health England said an initial review suggested the risks to people’s health from fracking were low – so long as the process is “properly run and regulated”.

Water UK, which represents all major UK water and wastewater service suppliers, said: “There are risks but they are all risks that can be dealt with.