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The cost of policing fracking protests in Lancashire revealed

Preston New Road site in Lancashire Credit: PA

A new report has revealed it cost nearly 12 million pounds to police protests at the Lancashire fracking site, before shale gas extraction was halted due to earth tremors.

The National Audit Commission reveals there's been slow progress in establishing a UK Shale gas industry.

Plans to have 20 wells fracked by 2020 are well behind schedule.

Protestors against fracking at two sites in Lancashire Credit: ITV Granada

Opposition from protesters and public concern over environmental impacts have long thwarted the ambitions of energy companies.

Here is some background on the fracking process:

- What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.

- Why is fracking controversial?

The process has been mired in controversy since it hit the headlines in 2011 for causing two minor earthquakes in Lancashire, prompting a temporary ban on fracking in the UK.

The ban was later lifted, with controls put in place to prevent tremors, but fracking continues to attract opponents who fear it can also cause water contamination, noise and traffic pollution.

Shale firm Cuadrilla, the only company to start fracking in the UK, has been forced to pause operations in Lancashire when seismic activity at record-breaking levels occurred.

Environmentalists also warn that pursuing new sources of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change, and the focus should be on developing cleaner sources of energy such as renewables.

- Why is it backed by the Government?

Ministers hope it could boost tax revenues, create jobs, reduce reliance on energy imports and bring down household fuel bills, although experts have questioned whether it would have any impact on energy prices.

The Government has taken steps to get the industry going, such as introducing tax breaks and community payments, and proposed changes to planning rules to get schemes off the ground more easily.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report released on Wednesday said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) felt that climate change objectives could be met while developing shale gas, but that the necessary technology had not yet been developed.

The Oil and Gas Authority is due to publish a scientific assessment of recent industry data which will inform the Government's approach to fracking.

- Where has fracking been pursued in the north west?

Cuadrilla has pursued shale gas extraction in Lancashire for a number of years.

In October 2018, an environmental campaigner failed in a High Court bid to block operations at the company's Preston New Road site.

But a record-breaking tremor measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale was felt near the site in August this year and fracking has been indefinitely suspended since.

Planning permission for another fracking site at Roseacre Wood, also in Lancashire, was refused by the Government in February after an appeal by Cuadrilla.

In January, it was revealed Greater Manchester's 10 local authorities will put a "presumption" in planning laws against fracking as part of a new green strategy to make the city carbon neutral by 2038.

In March, the Government's new planning guidance relating to fracking was found to be unlawful by the High Court following a legal challenge by environmental campaigners.

More here:

Fracking firm Caudrilla apologises over earth tremors

Largest tremor yet detected at Lancashire fracking site

Jeremy Corbyn joins protestors in Lancashire to call for a ban on fracking