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Fracking on my doorstep

by Claudio Accheri and Adela Suliman

When Susan and Chris Holliday moved to a rural strip of land in northern England for their retirement, they looked forward to the area's peacefulness and unspoilt views.

But in the past couple of years the serenity of Preston New Road, Lancashire, has been shattered for the Hollidays by the passing rumble of trucks, an air quality monitoring van in their carpark and a view dominated by a large rig and flare stacks.

Hydraulic fracturing, a technique known as fracking that uses a high-pressure mixture of water and chemicals to extract gas from deep within the earth, has moved into the neighbourhood.

"Whereas when we looked out of our upstairs window we used to see green fields, we now see an industrial site," said Susan Holliday.

Industry groups say fracking could prove a huge domestic energy source, and that Britain's shale gas reserves could cut imports of natural gas to zero by the early 2030s - but those living on the frontlines fear their homes could pay the price.

The Hollidays said they were concerned about property damage, earthquakes and health implications.

Late last year, British shale gas developer Cuadrilla began fracking operations at Preston New Road, making it the site of the country's first fracked horizontal well - a return to work in the area by Cuadrilla after a seven-year hiatus.

The company halted operations in 2011 when earthquakes measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale were linked to fracturing of its nearby Preese Hall well, causing public protests and an overhaul of regulations.

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