His comments come just days before the expected announcement by the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, on whether Cuadrilla should be allowed to frack at two sites in Lancashire.
Mr Lewis, now a Home Office Minister, was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, broadcast four miles from Third Energy’s fracking site in North Yorkshire.
“Bigger issues” – Tim Farron
Mr Lewis was the only panellist in favour of fracking.
The Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, said he had visited Kirby Misperton today and shared concerns of local people about the impact of fracking on the landscape, water supply, tourism and agriculture.
But Mr Farron told the audience said there were bigger issues:
“At this time, when we’ve just signed the Paris Agreement, when we’re trying to tackle the biggest earthly threat we face, what on earth are we doing signing up to yet another fossil fuel?
“There may be some short term benefits but the jobs with shale gas and fracking do not last for any length of time.”
The new Labour peer, Baroness Chakrabarti, said:
“Too many sensible grown-up women who I often listen to have raised concerns about this subject.”
Harsimrat Kaur, member of the Yorkshire and Humber Conservative Policy Forum, said:
“If the water quality issue is going to arise or if scientists say there is a potential of tremors why aren’t we sitting up and listening, why aren’t we researching more, why aren’t we saying actually let’s figure it out together, why aren’t we getting all the answers first before actually going on to do something that is actually going to be quite irreversible.
“If that [local impact] is too great a thing then we shouldn’t be doing it. We should be looking after first our environment and then our people.”
- Any Questions is on the BBC IPlayer. Any Answers, where listeners can respond, is broadcast live on Saturday 24 September at 1.30pm, earlier than its usual 2pm slot.
Updated 24/9/2016 with picture of Tim Farron in Kirby Misperton