LONDON (Reuters) - The government said on Monday it would ban fracking in national parks, reversing a policy announced last year, in a concession to the opposition Labour Party which had called for tighter controls to be written into law.
“We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special interest and areas of natural beauty,” said junior energy minister Amber Rudd during a debate on new laws regulating the extraction process.
Last year the government said fracking — extracting gas and oil by pumping chemicals, sand and water at high pressure into underground rocks — would be possible within national parks in exceptional circumstances.
The government also accepted a Labour proposal to tighten several other rules governing when and where fracking would be permitted.
“This is a huge u-turn,” said Labour energy spokeswoman Caroline Flint. “The government has been forced to accept that tough protections and proper safeguards must be in place before fracking can go ahead.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has championed fracking as a way to offset a decline in the country’s North Sea energy resources and reduce its dependence on gas imports.
But the method has attracted criticism over its potential environmental impact. Critics have expressed concerns about chemical leaks into groundwater resources and the disposal of waste water produced in the process.
Last year an application by London-based oil and gas exploration firm Celtique Energie to explore for shale oil and gas within a national park in southern England, where large reserves are believed likely to exist, was rejected.
Lawmakers voted down a separate bid on Monday to introduce a moratorium on all fracking.
Editing by Janet Lawrence