Fracking task force recommends community benefits cooperation

Local authorities should not be wholly responsible for administering community benefits payments in areas where fracking takes place, a task force on shale gas has recommended.

Fracking (Image by Lock the Gate Alliance, Flickr)
Fracking (Image by Lock the Gate Alliance, Flickr)

The Task Force on Shale Gas, chaired by Lord Chris Smith, was set up last year to look at the potential benefits and risks of shale gas extraction in the UK.

In its final report, the task force reviewed the economic impact of the shale gas industry, including community benefits and compensation.

It recommended that a "sufficient number" of exploratory wells should be drilled, hydraulically fractured and tested to provide a better picture of the amount of gas that is economically recoverable. "Only by doing so can operators and others evaluate whether and where an industry might develop and at what pace," it said.

In 2013, UKOOG, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, recommended that at the exploration and appraisal stage operators should provide local communities with benefits of £100,000 per well site where hydraulic fracturing takes place.

The task force said that as shale gas applications are already underway it was important that operators or UKOOG outline exactly how they intend to provide these community benefits.

It added: "In order to ensure maximum levels of transparency, community involvement and engagement, operators should not be left to administer community benefits payments as they see fit, neither should it be left entirely to local authorities.

"Agreeing a fair and robust scheme of community payments will be a complex issue, and should involve residents, local authorities and operators working together."

It added that an independent committee should be set up at a local level, with members including residents and local authority representatives, and the operator acting as a non-voting member.

The committee should receive advice from experts and should "deal with local policies within an overarching globally-agreed framework of principles when a shale gas production site is established." 

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