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U.K. Said to Consider Easing Trespass Laws for Fracking

The U.K. government is considering changing trespass laws to make it easier for companies to frack for gas and exploit geothermal energy without the agreement of landowners, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

In the U.K., hydraulic fracturing and the associated horizontal drilling are covered by the same laws that deal with oil and gas exploitation, rather than those covering coal mining. As a result, the owner of each property under which the horizontal drilling passes needs to give permission.

While Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government hasn’t reached agreement on a course of action, ministers from both parties agree the rules should be streamlined, according to the two officials, who asked not to be identified as the talks are still private. If legislation is needed, it will be announced when Queen Elizabeth II sets out the government’s new program at the state opening of Parliament on June 3, they said.

Though Cameron has repeatedly stressed his support for fracking, long delays in getting permission to drill have slowed exploitation. Among those companies aiming to drill are IGas Energy Plc and Cuadrilla Resources Ltd.

The Bowland basin, extending across an area of northern England that includes Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield, may hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas, the British Geological Survey says. That’s enough to meet demand for almost 50 years, based on an extraction rate similar to U.S. fields.

The Daily Mail newspaper, which first reported the move today, said that one option under consideration is the extension of the Coal Act 1998 to cover fracking.

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