Fracking and drinking water

I fully understand and appreciate people's concerns about fracking, but let me reassure you that the Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment.

These protections are provided for in the Infrastructure Act 2015. The Act forbids the Secretary of State from issuing consent for fracking if it would take place within a 'protected groundwater source area'. The regulations you mentioned clearly set out what is meant by this, and ensure that fracking would be banned at depths of less than 1,200 metres within 50 metres of a point where water used for domestic or food purposes is extracted. Drinking water is not normally found below 400 metres. This limit therefore provides at least 800 metres between the depth of most drinking water sources and the highest possible level at which hydraulic fracturing can take place. The regulations also ban fracking in zones through which groundwater (again used for domestic or food purposes) travels for 50 days before it reaches an abstraction point.

I therefore believe that these regulations will provide suitable protection against any health risks, so I support them. The Government's approach is guided by the Environment Agency, and with these protections in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.

Local communities must and will remain fully involved in planning decisions. Ministers have set up a £1.2 million support programme to ensure authorities have the resources to make planning decisions in a timely manner.