14/08/2013 05:10 BST | Updated 14/08/2013 05:11 BST

Fracking Is Damaging God's Creation Says Church

Anti-fracking protesters outside as Prime Minister, David Cameron visits the Wigan Youth Zone boys and girls club.

Is fracking damaging God's creation? That's the question the Church of England has asked in a new document.

Natural gas extraction "is increasingly presenting people with a choice between economic gain and a healthy environment", the Anglican diocese of Blackburn said.

Headlined "Fracking - opportunity or challenge?", the document released on its website sets out for parishioners the arguments over the controversial practice in an area that has already been the site of test drilling.

It claims that talk of the money to be made "has lured landowners to sign or contemplate signing leases to drill on their land".

"A relatively new technique to extract natural gas from previously unreachable depths is prompting a rush to drill, despite virtually no history as to its environmental impact," the document says.

"Any consideration of the pros & cons of an issue like 'fracking' has to be viewed in the context of global climate change, which itself cannot be ignored by Christians, as it raises questions of justice, fairness, provision, stewardship and love for God, His Creation and His Creatures, including our global human neighbours."

It adds: "The time we spend thinking, praying and acting now to protect our drinking water,and the rest of God's glorious Creation cannot compare with the time succeeding generations could potentially spend trying to make good what will likely happen if we in the church remain uninformed and silent."

Lancashire has been identified as one of the areas of Britain with most potential for hydraulic fracturing, which involves using water and chemicals to break up rocks deep underground.

A recent report suggested there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas present.

The UK's first fracking was undertaken by Cuadrilla in west Lancashire but was suspended after two minor tremors in the Blackpool area, which is part of the diocese.

Recent test drilling in Balcombe, West Sussex, was met with protests by local people and environmentalists.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that Britain would be "making a big mistake" if it did not seriously consider it commercially, with the prospect of cheaper gas prices.

Speaking during a visit to Lancashire, he said the country is "missing out big time at the moment", comparing the number of shale gas wells dug in the European Union with the number in the United States.

The diocese information highlights the concerns over the way the process could impact on water supplies and whether the toxic chemicals used in the process could get into drinking water.

It adds: "On a more localised basis, gas companies claim that drilling brings economic benefits, including increased employment.

"This premise is alluring to many landowners, including local farmers who may be struggling to make their land profitable.

It has lured landowners to sign or contemplate signing leases to drill on their land.

"This is one way they can retain their land and make money, and money in today's world seems to count for more than environmental stability."