Fracking is a controversial topic. To critics, it’s an environmentally dangerous way to produce energy that could potentially affect local water sources and damage the countryside. To supporters, it’s a cheap and highly effective source of energy that will not only fuel the UK, but contribute to important economic growth.
In the United States, economists have largely championed fracking as an important part of the country’s economy. The US has largely experienced the same questions on fracking’s environmental impact as the UK currently faces. As such, we can learn a lot by looking at the choices made regarding fracking in the United States.
Recently, it was announced that the newest fracking investment in the UK wouldn’t be located within Britain, but offshore. New facilities built and operated by energy company Cuadrilla Resources will open off the coast of Lancashire, providing new sources of energy for the UK market.
The opening of offshore fracking may please the environmental campaigners that have objected to it occurring on British soil. It may also bypass the difficult process of negotiating with local councils and landholders, many of whom object to fracking occurring in their areas.
While offshore fracking ventures have largely been accepted – or at least tolerated – in the UK, fracking ventures on land have encountered staunch opposition launched by environmental campaigners and local activists. The Balcombe venture in Surrey, for example, was abandoned after local opposition made it politically impossible.
In the recent cases of strong opposition to fracking that have occurred in the UK, a number of central issues have emerged. Local residents have objected to the effects that fracking could have on the local environment, particularly the possibility of the local water supply becoming contaminated.
Others are concerned about the effects that heavy industrial traffic could have on their communities – a realistic and justifiable worry. Others still worry about the long-term effects of fracking on the communities in which they live.
Many of the environmental objections to fracking clash with the goals of industry and government. A source of cheap energy would solve many of Britain’s growing economic issues, as well as reducing the frustratingly high costs of other energy sources that affect millions of householders.
While countries like China and India can afford to ignore environmental codes in generating their energy, the UK and other highly developed countries need to pay more attention to their environmental impact.
Look at the massive body of legal cases regarding fracking in the United States and it becomes clear that this issue is a contentious one everywhere. Cases on fracking are easy to find in states such as Colorado, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and more. Even the largely urban area of New York has faced challenges to fracking activity.
In the United States, the challenges to fracking have been launched not just by many of the country’s political activists and environmentalists, but by economic advisors and interest groups that object to the practice.
What can the UK learn from the US’s investment in fracking? It can learn that it will undoubtedly be a powerful political issue, especially with energy bills on the rise in the UK and the 2015 general election looming in the near distance.
It can also learn that the battle between environmental concerns and then value of economic growth will play a major role. As this debate will likely be solved in court, the UK can learn from the example of the US litigators that have fought on both sides of the fracking debate.
While we can learn a lot from the United States, it remains essential that litigators in the UK remember that the rules and precedent that dictate environmental litigation come from European Law, rather than from the United States.
This article was written on behalf of Vannin Capital. Visit their website to learn more about legal assistance for solicitors.