An MP is set to present shale gas industry advocate David Cameron with findings from a visit to a US state dubbed the world’s fracking capital. Stuart Minting reports

KEVIN Hollinrake MP is in his office, overlooking a North Yorkshire market square surrounded by tea rooms, pubs, gift shops and and hotels.

Having just returned from Pennsylvania, in the US, he says he has concerns for residents and traders in his Thirsk and Malton constituency, which is being lined up for the first fracking operation in the UK for several years and numerous others.

He says having run a business for decades he understands the perspective of the 180 firms in the area in opposing the gas production method, which he found to be a "heavy industrial process".

But having visited Pennsylvania to separate myths about fracking from its reality, he has become convinced many of his constituents are being lead up the garden path by campaign groups with a fixed agenda.

"Pennsylvania attracts many visitors and the economy is thriving", Mr Hollinrake says, "the restaurants and hotels are busy, it's improving there."

He says while the US state has 10,000 fracking wells in an area six times the size of North Yorkshire, if someone hadn't pointed them out to him, he wouldn't have noticed them.

"Most people that we spoke to in the communities were not talking about safety concerns", says Mr Hollinrake, "instead, they are very positive about the industry, its economic benefits and having a domestic supply of energy.

"Most people, probably 75 to 80 per cent are now in favour of fracking, where there had been a lot of concern about fracking before it arrived. I was surprised by that."

"I would say at the moment in the constituency 75 to 80 per cent are against fracking, but that's because there is a lack of information and certain people are framing an argument rather than looking at the facts."

He says while campaigners maintained 84 per cent of fracking wells become commercially unviable within three years, meaning more wells need to be drilled, communities, producers and regulators told him the wells had not been refracked after eight years.

Mr Hollinrake says: "We need a greater level of engagement between the regulators, the government, myself and the local community, and if it does proceed, there needs to be transparency all the time so people are getting proper information, not just scare stories."

He says meetings with academics saw arguments being put forward by campaigners debunked, with a university professor telling him that his study examining the relationship between low birth weights and proximity to fracking sites did not prove the two were linked.

Although it was pleasing to see how tighter regulations had produced results in the US, Mr Hollinrake says, he saw cases where fracking had gone badly wrong.

"One area we saw, Dimock, had suffered methane contamination in water in 2009, where they now have to get water treated in households and bring bottled water in for people to drink.

"We need to learn from those experiences and I think there's a lot we can learn from there", he says "the regulation, if we are going to do it, has to be very tight.

"We will need regulators crawling all over those sites."

"At a well site after six or nine months of fracking then that particular site has a low impact compared to how it was at the start.

"That's not talking about the whole constituency and if it's done in the wrong way, has the potential for a high impact."

"There are real concerns about safety and there are concerns about how that's rolled out across the area."

In the coming days, Mr Hollinrake will present a report featuring a series of recommendations about fracking operations to the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and climate change ministers and publish it for his constituents.

These will include the creation of local plans, similar to existing ones developed by councils for housing.

Another recommendation will call for a number of engineers, geologists and environmental scientists to be posted to fracking sites "to ensure we know exactly what's happening when fracking is taking place".

"Some of this revenue from this new natural gas option should be a bridge to a greener future", he says, "This is a cleaner alternative for today, we would all like to see domestic energy security purely from green energy, but that is somewhere down the line."