Chemical industry backs frack plan

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The chemical industry has welcomed a Government go-ahead for a big expansion of fracking in the UK.

On Monday, ministers invited firms to bid for onshore oil and gas licences for the first time in six years.

Steve Elliott, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association, said the announcement was another positive step on the way to ensuring security of supply.

“The Government has got the balance right. Let’s exploit what we can for our country, doing so in an environmentally responsible way. The argument that it has to be economic or environmental is redundant. It can and should be both”.

And he welcomed a requirement for developers to submit statements of environmental as a necessary test for responsible exploitation of shale.

The Association, whose member companies make up the UK’s biggest manufacturing export sector of the economy, has been championing the drive for shale gas.

About half of the country is thought to be suitable for exploration.

Ministers are also clarifying rules on when drilling can take place in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites.

It follows calls by environmental campaigners for an outright ban on drilling in them.

In a tightening of the guidance, the government will ask energy firms to submit an environmental statement that is “particularly comprehensive and detailed” if they want to frack on or near protected countryside, forcing them to demonstrate their understanding of local sensitivities.

Applications will be refused in these areas other than in “exceptional circumstances and in the public interest”.