I understand and appreciate concerns about fracking. These are concerns I share. It's important to make sure this gas exploration is safe, does not cause earthquakes or contaminate the water table. The Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment. With this in place, I think it is right that we see how we can explore onshore gas safely. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, is worth considering and will make us less dependent on places like Putin's Russia.
Draft regulations ban fracking at depths of less than 1,200 meters below National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites. The Government has committed to ensuring that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled at the surface of these places. Consent cannot be granted for drilling without an environmental impact assessment, and operators are required to monitor the level of methane in groundwater. Fracking will not take place within protected groundwater source areas, defined as land at a depth of less than 1,200m of the surface. Drinking water is not normally found below 400m.
These protections will ensure that the beauty of our National Parks and wider countryside is protected. It will ensure our water is safe and takes action to deal with the risk of earthquakes. The industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security, while all the time safeguarding some of our most precious landscapes.
Now I know there are some people who are opposed in all circumstances. For me however the test is whether this exploration can be done safely and securely. I think we have now got to a stage where there are a lot of safeguards.