The home of legendary folk hero Robin Hood will soon be surveyed by energy companies for its hydraulic fracturing potential.
The company Ineos has agreed with the U.K.’s forestry commission to spend up to two years using “thumper trucks” and other seismic surveying machines to search for natural gas in Sherwood Forrest. If successful, Ineos plans to invest almost $2 billion into fracking in the U.K.
Environmental activists are furious and have already stated they intend to fight the fracking survey.
“I can’t think of anything more iconic in the English mindset to go for,” Guy Shrubsole, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, told The Guardian. “You’d have thought they’d have learnt from the mistakes of some of the other fracking companies to avoid it, but they’ve gone straight for it.”
Friends of the Earth claims that seismic surveys alone could damage the forest and its wildlife, which include rare bats and other protected species.
Great Britain lifted its “fracking moratorium,” over the objections of environmentalists in November. National authorities overruled a local council to approve the first fracking operations since 2011, and the first drilling is expected to start in the second quarter of 2017.
Fracking in Britain was halted under the moratorium after test-drilling allegedly triggered a small magnitude 2.3 earthquake in 2011. A British Geological Survey report, carried out by independent experts, said the quakes were due to an “unusual combination of geology at the well site,” adding the conditions that caused the minor earthquakes were “unlikely to occur again.”
British environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth claim to have gathered more than 186,000 signatures on a petition to ban fracking in the country, citing environmental impact. The groups are using the petition to claim fracking has no “democratic mandate.”
Fracking in Great Britain will create 74,000 new jobs and safeguard another 100,000, energy consulting groups estimate. Fracking for oil has the potential to generate anywhere from $10 billion to $74.6 billion for the British economy and $26 billion in new tax revenue for the British government, according to the studies, and could offer up to $16.5 million in benefits to local governments per fracking site.
The U.K. estimates it has 26 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The U.K. is one of the few countries in Europe where fracking is legally permitted, but local governments had repeatedly declined to give fracking companies permits for years. The first fracking permits since 2011 were only issued in May in western Europe.
Energy analysts say that even in the most favorable circumstances, large scale development of fracking in the U.K is at least five to 10 years away due to legal and regulatory barriers.
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