(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Britain said yesterday it would ban fracking in national parks, reversing a policy announced last year, in a concession to the opposition Labour Party which had called for tighter controls to be written into law.
"We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special interest and areas of natural beauty," said junior energy minister Amber Rudd during a debate on new laws regulating the extraction process.
Last year the government said fracking-extracting gas and oil by pumping chemicals, sand and water at high pressure into underground rocks-would be possible within national parks in exceptional circumstances.
The government also accepted a Labour proposal to tighten several other rules governing when and where fracking would be permitted.
"This is a huge u-turn," said Labour energy spokeswoman Caroline Flint. "The government has been forced to accept that tough protections and proper safeguards must be in place before fracking can go ahead."
Prime minister David Cameron has championed fracking as a way to offset a decline in the country's North Sea energy resources and reduce its dependence on gas imports.
But the method has attracted criticism over its potential environmental impact. Critics have expressed concerns about chemical leaks into groundwater resources and the disposal of waste water produced in the process.
Last year an application by London-based oil and gas exploration firm Celtique Energie to explore for shale oil and gas within a national park in southern England, where large reserves are believed likely to exist, was rejected.
Lawmakers voted down a separate bid to introduce a moratorium on all fracking.
lA committee of British lawmakers had demanded a national moratorium on fracking due to environmental concerns yesterday, ahead of a crucial vote intended to boost the shale gas industry.
An inquiry by the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, which examines the effect of government policy on the environment, found the extraction and burning of more fossil fuels was contrary to Britain's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It warned that fracking-in which water, chemicals and sand are pumped at high pressure underground to extract gas-posed uncertain risks to public health, air quality, and water supplies.
"A moratorium on the extraction of unconventional gas through fracking is needed to avoid both the inconsistency with our climate change obligations and to allow the uncertainty surrounding environmental risks to be fully resolved," the report said.
It comes as lawmakers prepare to vote on the Infrastructure Bill, which contains a number of measures intended to kick-start the fledgling British fracking industry.
Britain has pledged to cut greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050, and several MPs on the committee tabled an amendment to the bill to call for a moratorium.
The report was the latest blow to Cameron's pledge to go "all out" on developing shale gas and oil, which the government says will boost the economy, provide employment and help Britain be less reliant on energy imports.
Last week, a report by Lancaster County Council recommended rejecting plans by British energy firm Cuadrilla to drill at two sites, saying it would have an "adverse affect" on the life of residents.
The report noted public opposition to fracking, and criticised a provision in the Infrastructure Bill that would make it easier for energy companies to drill beneath homes without residents' permission.