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UK Parliament backs fracking below national parks, heritage sites and other beauty spots

LONDON – 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.

Earlier this year, British lawmakers rejected a proposal to suspend fracking but indicated they would not permit fracking in national parks.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the plan shows a “complete lack of regard” for the need to protect some of the most beautiful spots in Britain.

The government says fracking is safe if the right standards are in place.