RELIGIOUS leaders have joined the ‘fracking’ debate by telling parishioners how to oppose hydraulic fracturing in Lancashire.

The Diocese of Blackburn has produced an information leaflet detailing the process of fracking - a method of shale gas extraction which works by blasting sand, water and chemicals underground to free up natural gas - and a list of pros and cons.

The Rev Chris Halliwell, Blackburn Diocesan Rural and Environmental Project Officer, said: “It may appear...that the church’s approach to an issue like fracking is negative, but this stems from a sincere conviction to take seriously the challenges of caring for God’s fragile creation.”

One of the Church of England’s ‘Marks of Mission’ is “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’, meaning they have to address an issue like fracking, which could potentially change the Lancashire landscape.

There are a number of fracking exploration sites in the county including on the Fylde and near Preston.

Fracking is already widely used in the US but not without controversy.

It is believed that the chemically infused water, used to ‘frack’, was either dumped illegally or left in ‘flow-back pools’ which evaporates into the atmosphere and eventually contaminates drinking water supplies.

However, Blackburn MP Jack Straw believes the method is safe and said: “Shale gas could underpin a revival in Lancashire’s economic fortunes.”

Rev Halliwell said fracking demonstrates a disregard for the integrity of creation and will only widen the gap between rich and poor, locally and globally.

“Fracking also...[contributes] to the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he said. “These levels are already dangerously high, and contributing to the reality of climate change.

“The Christian church would want to encourage all believers to approach the issue of fracking with prayerful humility, seeking God’s wisdom and understanding in respect of caring for our neighbours and the vulnerable planet we all share.”