Strictly-regulated fracking could go ahead without the risks of a major earth tremor happening in Lancashire, say business leaders and a geology expert.
And supporters of shale gas exploration say there is no time to lose before the fledgling industry decides to go elsewhere.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is proposing a “traffic light” warning system under which drilling and hydraulic fracturing would be monitored at any site.
If there is a tremor above 0.5 on the Richter scale, fracking would have to stop.
Campaigners claimed last week on the anniversary of a tremor caused by Cuadrilla at Preese Hall near Weeton that the “traffic light” warning system would not prevent further tremors caused by fracking – and seismic events could be larger than the ones which triggered the temporary ban on fracking in 2011.
Today Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “As with any industry it’s down to expert agencies to have an oversight of any potential risks.
“The Chamber believes it is absolutely right to promote the completion of exploration in order to realise the potential economic benefits which could be very significant for a large number of businesses, workers and families across the county.
“The Chamber considers that if we do not complete exploration, this would severely set back the process of understanding the commercial potential of the Bowland shale in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire exploration area – that is the goal of exploration.”
John Standing, a geological professional working in the North Sea oil and gas sector, said of the 2011 incident: “The claims made by the campaigners .... of houses shaking, cracks in walls ... are beyond ridiculous.
“These kinds of effects would be the result of a much larger earthquake, such as the 5.2 magnitude earthquake that occurred in 2008 where the epicentre was in Lincolnshire, yet it was felt as far away as Aberdeen and Ireland.”
He added: “The fact is that if we look at the shale gas industry in the USA and Canada, where thousands of wells have been drilled there are only four recorded seismic events related to hydraulic fracturing, all of which where minimal, caused no structural damage, and were only recorded by seismographs.”
He said the probability of a repeat of the Preese Hall event was minimal, and even greater reduced by the introduction of the “traffic light” monitoring system.”
A planning inspector chaired a five-week public inquiry at Blackpool Football Club into Cuadrilla’s plans.
Cuadrilla has said that regulation would prevent any tremors of the kind seen at Preese Hall. And onshore gas industry leaders have said the regulation regime proposed was far more rigorous than EU guidelines.