The Welsh Affairs Committee publishes its First Report of Session 2014-15 into Energy generation in Wales: Shale Gas.
In a report published today, Monday 16 June the Welsh Affairs Committee says shale gas represents an opportunity for Wales but that it must not come at the expense of Wales’s natural environment. Both the UK and Welsh Governments must consider environmental risks, including the traffic and noise caused by commercial shale gas operations as well as the visual impact and other environmental risks associated with fracking.
The Government forecasts that nearly 70% of the UK’s gas supply will be imported by 2025. It is vital that the UK identifies new sources of gas if it is to safeguard the UK’s security of supply.
Shale gas production across the UK is currently at the exploratory stage and there is no good data yet on the amount of shale gas in Wales. Should considerable reserves of shale gas be present—as industry representatives predict—it could be a decade before a viable shale gas industry is created in Wales.
The Committee’s key conclusions and recommendations are:
- The UK Government and the Welsh Government should work with commercial companies and others to provide a reliable range of estimates of shale gas available in Wales. This should be published by the end of 2014.
- Both the UK and Welsh Government should assess the overall impact of shale gas supply on the level and mix of energy produced in Wales and the UK.
- The Welsh Government should begin now to consider how the employment opportunities presented by shale gas production could be maximised. This should include a detailed examination of the skills required by the industry and the extent that Wales already has people with those skills.
- The UK Government must provide further information about how local communities in Wales will benefit, financially or otherwise, from shale gas operations in their area.
- Both the UK Government and the Welsh Government must ensure that the regulatory and planning framework gives due weight to the traffic and noise caused by commercial shale gas operations, in addition to the visual impact and other environmental risks associated with fracking.
- The issue of treatment, transportation and disposal of wastewater is a growing concern: toxic and radioactive water must not be allowed to contaminate water courses.
- The Government should consider the case for minimising ground-level shale gas operations in sensitive areas in Wales, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Parks. It must set out how it would ensure that development does not compromise designated sites, in particular those in environmentally sensitive areas.
- Commercial companies should pay for an independent Environmental Impact Assessment at the exploratory stage of any significant shale gas development.
David Davies MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"Shale gas offers a wealth of potential benefits for Wales, in terms of energy supply, economic benefits and employment. We know there is some environmental risk: the UK and Welsh Governments must demonstrate that everything has been done to assess and mitigate that risk – both to the environment and Welsh people’s enjoyment of it - before we move forward and maximise the benefits for Wales."