Ministers announce ban on fracking in UK until 'compelling' evidence can end safety fears
Fracking will be banned in the UK until there is "compelling" new evidence to quell safety fears over the process, the Government has said.
Ministers announced the move after an Oil and Gas Authority report found that it is not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes relating to it.
The decision means that exploratory work on whether shale gas extraction could be a major energy source for the UK will no longer go ahead until, and if, fresh evidence can prove that it is safe.
The move marks a major victory for campaigners, who have long called for the process - which takes place across the world including in the US, Canada and Argentina - to be banned in Britain.
Ministers said tremors close to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire, which has long been a site for anti-fracking protests, was a further factor in their ruling.
Separate proposals to change the planning process for fracking sites will also be cancelled.
Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration in the UK must be carried out safely.
"In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.
"After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.
"For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect."
Tom Wheeler from the Oil and Gas Authority added: "The OGA’s considerations have been informed both by the seismic events and by independent scientific analysis of data from the first Preston New Road well.
"Based on these, the OGA believes that further detailed geomechanical analysis would be needed before we could evaluate with confidence whether hydraulic fracturing could resume in the Fylde, or elsewhere, consistent with the Government’s policy aims."
Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey, said: "When the Tory government overruled local democratic decisions to halt fracking, communities did not give up.
"When fracking protestors went to jail, communities did not give up. And now they have forced the government to U-turn in their support for a dirty industry once described by Boris Johnson as ‘glorious news for humanity.’
"It is over eight years since fracking caused earthquakes near Blackpool. The Tories owe the public an apology, and an explanation of how much public money they wasted while ignoring the science."
Rebecca Newsom from Greenpeace UK said: "Grassroots activists across the country deserve huge credit. If the Government reads the science and listens to the strong public opposition then fracking has no future."