Britain's PM Cameron says shale gas rules must be simplified


LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Britain must simplify regulationsgoverning shale gas extraction or fracking to speed up thedevelopment of an energy source that has helped to transform theU.S. market, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday.

"On fracking, we do need to take action across the board tohelp enable this technology to go ahead," Cameron told a newsconference in Brussels after a meeting of European leaders.

"There is a worry people are going to have to go through somany different permits in order to start fracking that theysimply won't bother, so we need a simplified system."

Under pressure to do more to bring down rising consumerenergy costs, Cameron has repeatedly urged the country to "getbehind fracking", a technology he says would bring down billsand create tens of thousands of jobs.

Britain is thought to have big shale gas reserves, butopponents of the process say it can trigger small earthquakes,cause pollution and contaminate the water supply.

Operators who want to drill a well to look for gas need alicence from the energy ministry, permission from the MineralPlanning Authority and an Environment Agency permit. They mustgo through the process again if they decide to start production.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, retrieves gas and oiltrapped in tight-layered rock formations by injectinghigh-pressure water, sand and chemicals. There have beenprotests this year in southern England over fracking.

High energy costs have also prompted a political debate inBritain over whether the government is doing enough to helpsqueezed households.

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