Former U.K. Environment Agency Chairman to Lead Shale Gas Group

Former U.K. Environment Agency Chairman Chris Smith will head an industry-funded group to carry out “independent and transparent” research into shale gas.

The Task Force on Shale Gas is financed by utility Centrica Plc, shale driller Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., oil engineer Weir Group Plc, energy company Total SA and Dow Chemical Co., which has benefited from a boom in cheap shale output in the U.S.

The group will offer guidance on energy over the next two years and soon call for evidence, it said today in a statement.

It “will provide impartial opinions on the impacts, good and bad, that the exploitation of shale gas will have,” Smith, Environment Agency chairman for six years to 2014, said in the statement. It will be “independent and transparent,” he said.

The government has opened swathes of the U.K. for shale gas licensing and offered tax breaks to drillers to spur development amid falling conventional oil and gas reserves in the North Sea. Hydraulic fracturing, where shale is blasted with water, sand and chemicals, faces opposition on concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination and blighting of the countryside.

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