Licences for possible fracking already granted in North-East and North Yorkshire (From The Northern Echo)
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Licences for possible fracking already granted in North-East and North Yorkshire
DRILLING licences already issued for possible 'fracking' in the region are revealed today.
Gas companies have been awarded a dozen licences for shale gas in the North-East and North Yorkshire, mainly in constituencies held by Coalition MPs.
They are revealed as the Government steps up attempts to persuade people to accept fracking - which David Cameron believes is essential to Britain's future.
Communities where wells are dug have been promised £100,000 compensation, plus one per cent of the profits - which could run to "several million pounds", ministers say.
But Greenpeace warn protests are inevitable, after angry clashes at Balcombe in West Sussex, where exploratory drilling began last week.
Lawrence Carter, its energy campaigner, warned MPs would "pay a price at the polling booth" if they back drilling in their own constituencies.
He said: "Balcombe is just the beginning - people won't take the disruption to their communities and countryside lying down."
The new technology is hugely controversial, involving blasting underground rock deposits with water, to release trapped pockets of gas.
The alarm has been raised over groundwater contamination and toxic air around sites.
Greenpeace has mapped the areas covered by licences granted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
However, any application will have to pass normal planning and regulatory tests, before final approval is given by the department, officials say.
In this region, they are located:
- Stretching east of Middlesbrough to the western edge of Redcar - covering South Bank, Grangetown and north of the River Tees.
- In the centre of the North York Moors National Park - south of Castleton.
- West of Scarborough - stretching across to Helmsley.
- West of Scalby
- Centred on Pickering, North Yorkshire.
- Northern edge of Malton, North Yorkshire
- Three licences north east of Malton.
- Two licences north west of Malton.
- Western edge of York - stretching north to Easingwold.
It is unlikely all the sites would be fracked - even if drilling went ahead - as many have the potential to generate conventional gas instead.
There is only one licence in the North-East - despite Tory peer Lord Howell's now-notorious call - later retracted - for fracking in the "desolate" region.
It is largely in the constituency of Redcar Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales, stretching into the Stockton North seat of Labour's Alex Cunningham.
The North Yorks moors site touches the Richmond seat of Foreign Secretary William Hague, but is mainly in Scarborough and Whitby, held by fellow Tory Robert Goodwill.
Most of the licences are in the Thirsk and Malton constituency of Anne McIntosh, chairwoman of the Commons environment select committee.
The Tory backbencher could not be contacted yesterday, but spoke of her concerns earlier this year, in an interview with a political magazine.
"There are environmental issues around fracking that worry me," she said. "I can understand the apprehension of the local communities and they need to be listened to."
However, shale gas supporters insist fracking is perfectly safe, if wells are constructed properly, and deny it can contaminate groundwater.
Meanwhile, Neil O'Brien, chief executive of Alkane Energy, called for the Midlands and the North to be fracked before the South - saying there would be less opposition in areas with a background in coal mining.
"A drilling rig appears anywhere now and people get in a tizz and start to demonstrate," he said.
"I would be a lot happier to have a few pilot projects in more traditional heartlands first. Some people would not notice we are there."
Ministers are keen to press the accelerator, amid claims that shale gas could deliver a £4bn a year boost to the UK economy and create more than 70,000 jobs.
Mr Cameron said: "Nothing is going to happen in this country unless it's environmentally safe. There is no question of having earthquakes and fire coming out of taps."
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