This week the Government published a comprehensive report into the environmental impact of fracking, with the suggestion that as many as 2,880 wells could be drilled across the country.
This is already a huge issue for us in West Sussex, with an application for exploratory drilling by Celtique Energie between Kirdford and Wisborough Green in my constituency.
I have called for more information for local people, a plea which has been echoed by West Sussex County Council. So a proper study of the costs and benefits, and a balanced debate, are welcome.
The benefits are potentially substantial: greater energy security, new jobs, and revenues to the Exchequer - with significant sums being passed back to local communities.
Shale gas could also produce less harmful emissions than imported natural gas - which explains why the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change recently backed fracking.
But for West Sussex, with our precious countryside, fragile chalk downs and tranquil villages, the impacts on water and traffic are of particular concern.
Significantly, the report concedes that “High levels of shale gas production could ... have some potentially adverse impacts on the environment and communities, including an increase in traffic congestion, emissions and more pressure on water resources.”
It says there could be up to 51 vehicle movements to a site each day during exploration and site preparation over a three year period.
And the report admits that it could be “more sustained and locally significant” on communities adjacent to the development sites, or on the routes to the sites, during exploration and site preparation.
There’s also the question of traffic during production itself. At Wisborough Green, Celtique say that “it is impossible to say ... what a future production scenario could look like”. In other words, there could be further lorry movements, but we are in the dark about how many or for how long.
The Energy Minister said that shale could bring growth, jobs and energy security, “but we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment, with robust regulation in place.”
If fracking is to happen, the impacts on water, traffic and landscape must be properly assessed, and sites chosen sensibly.
Substantial lorry movements through villages should be avoided, and our chalk aquifers protected. Local people will be looking to the licensing bodies to ensure this is the case.
If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at email@example.com