Don Foster, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Bath, is among a significant number of MPs who have voted in favour of a bill that outlines the use of fracking in a move that emphasises the shift towards the method as the preferred way of retaining domestic fossil fuel.
The move comes despite Mr. Foster recognising the local impact fracking might have on the city of Bath’s soil structure.
He justified the move on his website, stating that the Liberal Democrats had amended the bill, introducing thirteen “necessary conditions” which must be adhered to in order for fracking to commence in any area.
However, despite his qualms about the process in Bath’s vicinity, he admitted that it is likely to have a key part in Britain’s future energy policy.
“If fracking can be done successfully, it will give us security, increase investment in the UK and create a lot of jobs,” Mr Foster said after the vote.
Amongst the conditions aimed at decreasing the impacts of fracking are Environmental Impact Assessments, independent inspections of wells, and consultation with professionals of the area as well as the local residents. If these restrictions will not be implemented, experts suggest there could be serious repercussions to the iconic hot water springs of the city and consequently to the tourism industry.
The process involves the extraction of shale gas by drilling deep into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
However, despite the success in passing a ‘safe’ bill on fracking, it still remains a controversial process. Environmentalists worry that some of the chemicals used could escape and contaminate ground water, whilst others argue that fracking takes attention away from the growing need to invest in renewable energy sources.
The main concern in Bath, however, was highlighted by the British Geological Survey which concluded that fracking could possibly ruin the underground water supply; something Councillor Paul Crossley (LD, Southdown) argues would heavily impact tourism, the “life and blood of this city”.
The city’s world famous hot springs bring £34 million directly into the local economy, with many more restaurants and shops also dependent on the influx of tourists. Fracking, it is feared, would decimate this income.
With the restrictions in place, it is likely that Bath would be spared from the worst impacts of fracking, but the outright failure to prohibit fracking has caused fierce opposition.
Green Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bath, Dominic Tristram told bathimpact, “Liberal Democrats in Bath and North East Somerset like to talk about being a safe pair of hands for the environment and opposing fracking, but as we saw in Parliament on Monday, when it comes to real action they do nothing to oppose it. Can we trust them to ever keep their word?”
Equally disgruntled with the motion was the Somerset-based, Wells Liberal Democrat MP, Tessa Munt, who resigned her position as Parliamentary Personal Secretary to Vince Cable after the vote. She said: “I am unwilling to compromise and cannot change my opposition to fracking”
“I will continue to defend and represent this beautiful part of Somerset, its residents, businesses with all the enthusiasm and energy that I have had since May 2010 when I became the Member. My campaign to stop fracking in Somerset continues.”