FRACKING must go ahead as quickly as possible, peers say today - despite fears that it could wreck Hampshire's water supply.
The Government is being urged to “get its act together” by pushing forward the exploitation of shale gas, to create jobs, hold down energy bills and reduce Britain's reliance on gas from Russia.
A report by an all-party Lords select committee demands a “streamlining” of regulation and alarm that no drilling applications have been approved yet.
And it specifically dismisses concerns that fracking will backfire in Hampshire, because the county relies on groundwater and extraction from rivers for its supplies.
Speaking from Westminster, committee chairman Lord MacGregor told the Echo: “We took a great deal of evidence from scientists and others. Those concerns can be dealt with.”
The former Tory Cabinet minister added: “Shale gas offers a remarkable opportunity. We believe the Government needs to get its act together.”
The Daily Echo revealed last year, that eight drilling licences for possible fracking had already been issued to gas companies, at sites across South Hampshire.
But the alarm was raised over groundwater contamination, particularly in the Hampshire Downs, where water is stored in chalk aquifers and pulled from rivers, wells and boreholes.
George Hollingbery, the Meon Valley MP, has previously warned the impact could be “disastrous” and suggested it meant fracking was “impossible” in the county.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Mr Hollingbery said he had yet to see the report and was unable to comment.
But today's report, by the Lords economic affairs committee, finds that:
• The risk of pollution of aquifers is “hard to imagine”.
• Fears of water shortages have been “overplayed” - with the amounts used by fracking no greater than for other industries.
• Concerns are based on “past practice in the US” - but regulations would be tougher in the UK.
Next month's Queen's Speech is expected to include plans to change trespass laws, to allow shale gas companies to drill under homes without the owner's permission.
The report backs that controversial move - arguing the pipes would be three kilometres below ground.
Lord MacGregor said: “It's way, way down. We don't believe there would be any impact on landowners and it will enable the Government to get on with it.”
The eight Hampshire licences include locations in north Southampton, north and west of Winchester, east of Fareham and in the New Forest.
Communities have been offered “compensation” of £100,000 per exploration well and one per cent of the profits - worth several million pounds, say ministers.
However, it is unlikely that all the sites would be fracked - even if drilling went ahead - because many have the potential to generate conventional gas instead.
Where are the potential Hampshire locations?
LICENCES for exploratory drilling licences for possible fracking sites have already been issued to gas companies.
They are located in:
• North Southampton, stretching east from North Baddesley all the way to the Swanwick, including Eastleigh, Lakeside Country Park, Hedge End and Botley.
• North of Winchester, from Kings Worthy stretching west almost to Stockbridge.
• East of Winchester, underneath Hampage Wood.
• Further north, reaching from Chilbolton west to Amport.
• Stretching west from Hinton, in the New Forest.
• From east of Fareham, stretching further east.
• Two licences stretching east from the Hambledon area.
It is unlikely that all the sites would be fracked - even if drilling went ahead - because many have the potential to generate conventional gas instead.