The Government may offer concessions to Labour when the issue is debated in the Lords next month.
However insiders at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) believe ministers have already “secured cross-party consensus” and need only negotiate “finer points” of detail to lock down fracking before next year’s general election.
A source close to Energy Minister Matt Hancock said: “We welcome cross-party support for well-regulated shale extraction and will debate the precise details during passage of the legislation. Extracting shale gas is important for our energy security and good for jobs.”
However, shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex, who has admitted shale gas “may have a role to play” in Britain’s future energy needs, warned Labour might yet withhold support.
He told the Sunday Express: “If the Government accept our amendments, there will be much more thorough regulation, but there are other issues.
“The real test for the Government is to move beyond their rhetoric about shale as the silver bullet that will solve all our energy problems.” The opposition says it will not support fracking without transparency about chemicals used in the process, monitoring of groundwater and environmental impact assessments for all drilling sites.
We want to ensure we make the most of Britain’s indigenous energy supplies in a way that is safe and secure, creates jobs and gives better security of supply
Energy Minister Matt Hancock
DECC officials insist they have a “robust regulatory framework” in place to guarantee safety and permission will only be granted if fracking operations pose no risk to the public or environment.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: “We are looking carefully at all amendments tabled to the Infrastructure Bill. In several cases, these reiterate what already happens.
“We want to ensure we make the most of Britain’s indigenous energy supplies in a way that is safe and secure, creates jobs and gives better security of supply. We’ll consider all measures to do that.”
Officials will push to set up “community engagement plans” and legislate in the bill so homeowners cannot oppose drilling beneath their properties.
Conservative ministers believe the biggest threat is the “nimbyism” of rural MPs, who support fracking at a national level but oppose exploratory drilling in their constituencies.