UK Government Makes a Quick Lane Change in the Fracking Agenda

by mfyfe on September 25, 2015 - 4:55pm

Shocker alert: the British government, specifically the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has gone back on their word and opened up previously protected sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) to fracking operations (without consultation of concerned citizens, may I add).  Editor of the Guardian’s environmental site, Adam Vaughan, wrote Government makes ‘outrageous’ U-turn over fracking in precious wildlife sites highlighting this decision by the government.

It was promised in January of this year that fracking operations would be excluded from these sites along with national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, the Broads and world heritage sites, but these SSSIs have been removed from the list as of July.  These SSSIs are described by some government officials in this article as the “best of our wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage” and so operations, which may affect thousands of these SSSIs, could put wildlife at risk.  Green party MPs state that this lack of information and warning illustrates the dishonesty of ministers, especially when it comes to fracking.

The government seems to be doing everything they can to expand fracking operations and make exploration and extraction ever easier for the shale gas industry.  But to what end?  If it does come to be that fracking occurs in some of these SSSIs, one can only imagine where else they would consider extending it to.  At the present time, fracking is still excluded from natural parks, but shale companies are permitted to drill horizontally underneath the park from sites outside of its boundaries; fracking has also been permitted under protected groundwater source areas, risking water contamination.  They are ever encroaching on all of these specially protected areas.

There is still no sign of any official reports on the environmental impact of these operations.  An industry-funded UK shale gas taskforce did however conclude that it is still too early in the game to conclude whether fracking is good for the UK; just another elusive statement to avoid exposing potential harms before licences are distributed.  Decision makers seem to have an ulterior agenda when it comes to protection of the land.

There are clearly conflicting motives here for the protection of the land; different groups value the land for different reasons.  The government values the land area for its potential for resource extraction from an economic standpoint and for the likely creation of jobs and income for many citizens.  On the other hand, many concerned citizens, scientists and environmentalists value the SSSIs and the land in general for its natural beauty and wildlife habitat, and have concerns about potential negative effects of fracking.  This also presents possible cognitive conflict; different understandings of the situation and associated data.  Official reports have not been made public about the potential impact of operations in the SSSIs, so maybe the Department of Energy and Climate Change has information suggesting that operations are not as harmful as what the general public is aware of, or maybe not; involved groups are not all uniformly informed. 

There is still so much uncertainty about the effects of fracking, which is likely what concerns people the most.  Without strong evidence and non-biased reports (as in, research needs to be conducted by independent scientists, not industry-funded teams), I don’t believe citizens will ever jump on the fracking bandwagon.  The government didn’t so much as use their turn signals to indicate they were making this lane change when it came to this significant natural resource policy decision.  The people of the UK deserve an explanation at the very least and a chance to voice their opinions.



You presented a very intriguing and shocking subject as you mentioned in your article. I was not expecting such actions to be taken by the government of a developed country as England. I believe that it is important that the citizens of England are made aware of the changes implemented on the environment since it affects the quality of their life and the sustainability of their livelihoods. The aspect of your summary that I found most interesting was the fact that a government can change its word. The wildlife is crucial to environmental diversity and resilience. By changing the habitats of the species, the government decreases the amount of species that carry out a given role in an ecosystem, thus decreasing the resilience of the ecosystem. In other words, I think that fracking will decrease the rate of ecological redundancy, which will lower the resilience. I agree with the fact that the government always puts political and economical advantages forward. To counter this, the citizens have to rebel since environmental impacts are as important. However, it seems that the British population is not very concerned by the environment. In Adam Vaughan’s article “Recycling rates in England have stalled”, it is stated that recycling rates have flatlined, rising only by 0.1% (Vaughan, 2014, para.2). To increase the awareness of environmental damages due to fracking or the benefits of recycling in England, the media is an effective tool. Also, in school, classes of geography and science can have classes on the environmental issues at stake to keep the citizens aware of the government’s actions. I believe that there is a lack of initiative in England and that environmental issues are not of important concern. In your article, you state at the end that the people of UK should have a chance to voice their opinions but I believe that they have a lot of freedom of expression and chances to express their opinions but they do not take the initiative to do it because they do not understand the urgency of the situation.


Vaughan, A. (2014, November 18). Recycling rates in England have stalled. The Guardian. Retrieved from

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