New Ministers Face Renewed Calls For Extension of the Fracking Moratorium

BROCKHAM, SURREY, 24 Feb 2020 – An open letter to the Government signed by more than 600 academics, politicians and campaigners was delivered today to key ministers overseeing fracking, including Alok Sharma and George Eustice, the newly appointed secretaries for BEIS and DEFRA. The letter was also sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and copied to chief executives of national onshore oil & gas regulators.

The letter – which was launched by Brockham Oil Watch on 2 November 2019, the day the fracking moratorium was announced – calls for replacing the current moratorium with an outright ban and an extension of this ban to all forms of hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation techniques to enhance the productivity of onshore oil and gas wells. Together with the letter, addressees received a copy of the legal brief, Acid Stimulation: Fracking by Stealth, detailing the issues raised.

Signatories include professors Denis Hall, Stuart Haszeldine, Robert Howarth, Anthony Ingraffea and David Smythe; politicians Caroline Lucas MP, Jonathan Bartlett, co-leader of the Green Party, Baronesses Jenny Jones and Natalie Bennett; Doug Parr on behalf of Greenpeace UK, Bill McKibben, Co-founder of, George Monbiot, Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corré, Jeremy Leggett, Alistair Beaton – playwright and the author of Fracked!, actors Susan Jameson and James Bolam, Josh Fox – Director of Oscar Nominated Film Gaslands, Dr Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion and many more.

Nearly 100 anti-fracking and related groups in the UK and internationally also signed the letter.

David K. Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Glasgow who provided scientific advice to the project, said “Current legal drafting and accompanying technical definitions are in places self-contradictory and shambolic. We can cut the Gordian knot around controls on fracking (and its ugly sister acidisation) by basing the legislation on the concept of ‘stimulation’, this being defined as the permanent alteration of the bulk physical properties of the rock volume to be exploited for oil or gas.”

Alice Goodenough, consultant solicitor at Harrison Grant, who co-authored the legal brief said: “Where well stimulation activities fall outside the narrow legal definition of “hydraulic fracturing”, there is no clarity over what legal and regulatory controls apply.  Many of the restrictions in place for fracking do not apply to other forms of well stimulation.”

Ada Zaffina from Brockham Oil Watch said: “This issue unites anti-fracking campaigns across the country. People don’t want fracking, whether it’s high volume, fracking with acid, or using some other extreme extraction technique. The associated environmental and public health risks are unacceptable, and so is continuing to extract oil and gas from unyielding rocks instead of tackling the climate emergency.”

[1] Open letter to the Government: Stimulation of oil and gas wells – reforms required is available here and the legal briefing: Acid Stimulation: Fracking by Stealth  is available on request.

The brief was co-authored by Brockham Oil Watch and Harrison Grant Solicitors, with scientific Advice from David K. Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow.

[2] Fracking moratorium announcement 2 Nov 2019: Government clarification on the limited scope of the moratorium

Editor’s Notes

About Brockham Oil Watch:    Brockham Oil Watch (BOW) is a non-political group of local residents concerned about the threat of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (or other unconventional reservoirs) at Brockham, and gaps in the current legislative/regulatory framework. For more information visit

About Harrison Grant Solicitors:    Harrison Grant provides experience and expertise in environmental, wildlife, human rights, planning and public law, and advice on governance for charities and campaign groups.  For more information visit

About Professor Smythe: David K. Smythe is Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Glasgow. He took early retirement from the Chair of Geophysics in 1998 when the Department of Geology & Applied Geology was closed. He lives in France. His main current research interests are fracking, nuclear waste disposal, and nuclear accidents. For more information visit: 

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