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Environment

Fracking Paused Once Again in Lancashire After Drilling Provoked the Biggest Earthquake Yet

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Fracking, the controversial process used to extract oil and gas from shale rock, has returned to England — and it’s already causing tremors beneath the earth’s surface. Meanwhile, climate scientists have argued that it’s dangerous for the planet. Take action on the consequences of climate change here.

Fracking has paused yet again in Lancashire after another small earthquake was recorded on Wednesday night.

The 1.55-magnitude earth tremor — the largest recorded so far — led to an 18-hour suspension of drilling in line with regulation.

Fracking is the controversial process that extracts fossil fuels from shale rock by breaking into the ground with high pressure water. It returned to Lancashire on Oct. 15 2018 for the first time since earthquakes were first detected in Blackpool in 2011.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

No earthquakes have been detected in Lancashire since the last time fracking ceased eight years ago. A subsequent report found it was “highly probable” that those quakes were caused by fracking.

The British Geological Survey measured the most recent tremor as 1.6, while the BBC reports that Cuadrilla, the company responsible for the drilling, insisted the tremor would not have been felt by locals, comparing it to "a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor".

It comes just a week after the company began drilling on a second well, following shutdown of the first well because of tremors, according to the Guardian.

Read More: Top Climate Scientist Says UK Fracking Plans 'Ignore Science'

While in her previous role of climate minister, Conservative MP Claire Perry reportedly suggested to a fellow Conservative MP that rules governing the scale of permissible earthquakes could be relaxed as the fracking industry expands, according to Unearthed, the investigative journalism arm of environmental charity Greenpeace.

“As we gain experience in applying these measures, the trigger levels can be adjusted upwards without compromising the effectiveness of the controls,” she reportedly wrote in a letter to pro-fracking MP Kevin Hollinrake.

The new goverment is now reviewing its regulations, according to the Guardian, last week describing shale gas as an "important new domestic energy source."

The Times reports that the relaxation of rules is a position shared by Cuadrilla. 

But Jamie Peters, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “Kick-starting an entire new fossil fuel industry when the impacts of climate breakdown are already ruining lives, including right here in the UK, doesn’t line up with the government’s claims to be a climate leader.”

Internationally renowned climate scientist James Hansen — known as the “father of climate science” — previously wrote a letter to Perry while she was in office to warn her about the dangers of fracking.

“If the UK were to join the US by developing gas fields at this point in time it will lock in the methane problem for decades,” Hansen wrote in the letter. “The fossil fuel companies are well aware methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and yet they seem willing to continue on a path which can have disastrous consequences for our grandchildren.”

Methane is another gas that can cause the planet to increase in temperature as it builds up in earth’s atmosphere.

Fracking is already banned in Scotland and Wales, and across the UK, just 16% supported the process in 2017, according to an annual study by the Business and Energy Department.