TWO of the region’s Conservative MPs are at odds over fracking, after David Cameron’s vowed to go “all out” to exploit the technology.
Stockton South MP James Wharton condemned “scare stories” about shale gas, saying: “To dismiss proposals that could bring such huge benefits would be foolish.”
Mr Wharton pointed to an existing licence for possible fracking, covering an area east of Middlesbrough and stretching to the edge of Redcar.
And he said: “If we approach this in the right way, and ensure all technology is fully tested, then Teesside could ultimately benefit hugely from the investment it would bring.”
But Anne McIntosh, the Thirsk and Malton MP, warned of “shock waves through the countryside” and called for more information about the environmental assessments.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: “A number of fracking licences are being applied for in my area and I honestly do not know what procedure applies.
“There is an important difference between the shallow fracking that currently takes place and deep fracking, which will send shock waves through the countryside and is a matter of much greater concern.”
Most of the licences awarded to gas companies in this region have been issued in Miss McIntosh’s constituency, north and west of Malton and centred on Pickering.
Last week, the Prime Minister pledged that local councils will pocket all the business rates collected from fracking firms, double the previous amount.
They will also receive £100,000 for every well drilled and one per cent of the total profits from shale gas exploration – up to £1.7m extra a year from each fracking site.
Mr Cameron said: “We're going all out for shale. It is important for our country, it could bring 74,000 jobs, over £3bn in investment, give us cheaper energy for the future and increase our energy security.”
The announcement was criticised both for “bribing” councils – and, simultaneously, for offering the communities affected too little reward.
Fracking involves blasting underground rock deposits with water, to release trapped pockets of gas. The alarm has been raised over groundwater contamination and toxic air.
In reality, it is unlikely that all the licensed sites would be fracked – even if drilling goes ahead - because many have the potential to generate conventional gas instead.
In Redcar, Egdon, the company which holds the licence, insisted it currently had “no plans” to frack at the site.
It said the licence related to a natural gas field beneath land at Kirkleatham Business Park - not shale gas - and would, therefore, not require fracking to release it.
A spokesman said, last year: “The exploration and production activity that Egdon operate in the area is for conventional gas at Kirkleatham and Westerdale.”