LONDON (AP) — The British Parliament has approved proposals that would allow fracking for shale gas below national parks, world heritage sites and other designated areas of natural beauty.
The measure, which is opposed by environmental groups, was endorsed Wednesday by 298 votes to 261 and paves the way to more extensive fracking three-fourths of a mile below parks.
The fracking process involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow.
It has produced major economic benefits in some countries, but also raised a number of fears, including that the chemicals could spread to water supplies.
The opposition Labour Party said after the vote that there should be a moratorium until better safeguards are in place.
"We should have a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won't present intolerable risks to the environment," said Lisa Nandy, Labour's spokeswoman on energy and climate issues. She said the government is ignoring the public's "legitimate concerns" about the technology.
Earlier this year, British lawmakers rejected a proposal to suspend fracking but indicated they would not permit fracking in national parks.
Rose Dickinson of Friends of the Earth said the government is reneging on its commitment to have strong fracking safety regulations in place.
She said fracking "is completely incompatible with tackling climate change and the agreement reached in Paris."
The government says fracking is safe if the right standards are in place.