Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found that the government’s plan to implement fracking across the country is years behind schedule.
The watchdog also revealed that the plan has cost the taxpayer £32m so far.
Despite plans for 20 wells to have been established by the middle of 2020, only 3 wells have been launched in the past three years according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report, released on Wednesday, revealed that of the £32m spent so far on the project, £13m had gone towards the cost of maintaining security across the sites in the face of protests.
There were also concerns expressed in the report that many official regulators rely on the industry to self-report any problems that are faced. These regulators include the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, and Oil and Gas Authority.
Labour have used the findings to further their claim that fracking is a waste of public funds and that it should be stopped altogether. Shadow business and energy secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said:
“Fracking threatens air and water quality, and it contributes to the climate crisis. And as this report reveals, the government’s plan for making fracking sites safe after they’ve been used is unclear and untested. Well let me be crystal clear, Labour will ban fracking immediately.”
Fracking involves pumping a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock in order to extract natural gas. It is thought that there are 2.5m wells world worldwide that have been made using the process of fracking.
There are concerns regarding fracking, mainly revolving around fracking-induced earthquakes, groundwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Back in August, the area surrounding a Cuadrilla-run fracking site near Blackpool experienced a tremor measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale. Operations at the site have been suspended since.
Friends of the Earth’s Jamie Peters said: “This is a quietly critical report that doesn’t give the fracking industry any revived sense of hope. The NAO has several concerns including the mark-your-own-homework approach to regulation and the lack of clarity over who should be responsible for clean-up costs if fracking ever got going.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) said:
“The government has always said shale gas exploration can only proceed as long as it is safe and environmentally responsible. The Oil and Gas Authority will soon publish a finalised scientific assessment of recent industry data and we will set out our future approach as soon as we have considered the findings.”
Chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, Ken Cronin, said the report showed that the slow progress was a result of delays in the planning system. He said:
“The report comments on the need for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, recommended by the Committee on Climate Change as essential in meeting the net zero target.
“There is a significant role for both onshore oil and gas in the future, which if allowed to reach potential will bring the compelling environmental and economic benefits as detailed in the National Audit Office report.”