Thank you for your email about the earthquake risk from fracking. Shale gas exploration should only proceed as long as it is safe and environmentally responsible. Regulations now protect some of the country's most beautiful areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, meaning shale gas exploration cannot take place at depths of less than 1,200 metres in these areas. I welcome a commitment to ban the drilling of wells at the surface of these areas or within Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
While I do appreciate concerns on seismic activity, I am assured that the Oil & Gas Authority regulates on-site micro seismicity using a traffic light system. If activity passes a very low, precautionary threshold, it is immediately paused. This threshold, a 'red light' in the traffic light system, is set at 0.5 on the Richter scale, equivalent to less ground movement than you would feel from a passing car. That said, I recognise there have been concerns about seismic events over the summer. Colleagues tell me that the Government is expecting a finalised scientific assessment of recent industry data from the Oil & Gas Authority shortly and will set out its future approach as soon it has considered the findings. I appreciate the point you make about global warming and I will be following the outcome of this closely.