This July 2014 report by Scientists for Global Responsibility and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and concludes:
In this briefing, we have summarised key evidence concerning the environmental, health and wellbeing, and socio-economic aspects of fracking for shale gas in the UK. In particular, we have critically examined some of the most common industry and government claims, drawing extensively on independent academic and expert literature. We have found several areas of concern.
Regulation of the industry in the UK is currently inadequate, although it is stricter than in the US, thus somewhat reducing the potential for local environmental impact by comparison. With technological advances and an improved regulatory environment, groundwater contamination risks could conceivably be reduced to an acceptable level, although there is much to do to reach that point. Furthermore, the requirement for vast quantities of freshwater (expected to become scarcer under climate change), which require road transportation, is unlikely to be resolved. Confidence in the practice is undermined by a series of disingenuous claims made by both the Government and industry.
Virtually all economic analysts refute the claim that fracking will reduce energy bills in the UK. Instead, it will lock us into continued reliance on fossil fuels and the increasingly volatile and expensive international gas market. Although fracking will generate jobs, job leakage is probable, and it may result in job losses in other industries, for example, agriculture and tourism. The job creation potential has been substantially exaggerated, and is also significantly less than that of the low-carbon energy sector, which itself may suffer from diversion of investment to shale gas. Community benefits have also been exaggerated, while the substantial policing costs do not generally feature in the discussion. There is also some evidence of house prices having fallen near fracking sites.
Given that, even without shale gas, proven global reserves of fossil fuels are five times higher than can be burned without risking a 2°C global temperature rise, the exploitation of shale gas is dangerous and unnecessary. It is true that, assuming minimal methane leakage, shale gas might have a lower carbon footprint than coal. However, in the absence of a global cap on emissions, the use of shale gas will undoubtedly be in addition to, not instead of, coal, and will therefore result in an overall increase in emissions. Until such a constraint on emissions is in place, this problem remains unresolved.