On the first anniversary of Scottish Government’s announcement of a moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas, Friends of the Earth Scotland laid out a number of ways in which the case against the industry is now even stronger.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, commented:

“One year on from Fergus Ewing’s announcement of the moratorium, fracking looks like an even worse idea than it did twelve months ago. Evidence of detrimental impacts from fracking in the US is mounting, more states and countries have banned it, opposition to the unconventional fossil fuel industry continues to grow and the low oil price means it’s not economically viable anyway.”

In the last year:

Climate change – the Paris climate conference reinforced the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground in order to avoid devastating global warming. 2015 was the hottest year on record and the recent floods gave Scotland a glimpse of climate change impacts to come. [3]

Water contamination – in 2015 communities in Pennsylvania living with polluted drinking water for years were vindicated after research finally confirmed that household supplies had been contaminated by fracking chemicals from operations in the Marcellus Shale. [4]

Further bans – New York State permanently banned fracking after a two-year health study, joining a long list of countries and states which have temporary or permanent bans on unconventional fossil fuels. Following the Scottish moratorium, Wales and Northern Ireland introduced presumptions against fracking, and in July the Netherlands extended its long-running moratorium for another 5 years. In October the Scottish Government introduced a further moratorium on underground coal gasification. [5]

Earthquakes – earthquakes from fracking halted drilling in Lancashire for two years and now evidence from the US suggests the threat is even worse than feared, with the reinjection of industry wastewater responsible for almost 1000-years’ worth of earthquakes in Oklahoma in just two years. [6]

Community opposition – communities in Scotland and across the UK are continuing to organise and oppose unconventional fossil fuels. Responding to enormous local opposition, in June 2015 Lancashire County Council refused planning permission to Cuadrilla for 4 exploratory shale gas wells. This weekend will see protests across the UK for a National Anti-Fracking Day, including events in Edinburgh, Falkirk and Fife. A new internal SNP campaign, SMAUG, was launched in September [7].

Local Economics – in December research found fracking threatened house prices in Scotland following a UK Government report which had found the same. [8]

Global Economics – fracking and other forms of unconventional fossil fuel extraction are only viable when the oil price is high. The current low oil price is a major problem for the industry.
BHP Billiton, one of the few big players to get involved in the shale gas industry, recently wrote down $7bn shale gas assets, and it is predicted that half of the US industry could go bust. [9]

Church continued:

“Opening up a new frontier of unconventional fossil fuels is completely irresponsible in the context of the global climate crisis. We are already seeing the impacts of a changed climate here in Scotland and around the world. Moving away from fossil fuels couldn't be more urgent.

“The UK Government continues to offer tax breaks and weaken planning laws in its attempt get the fracking industry going, yet the low oil price has rendered the economics of unconventional fossil fuels totally unviable.

“The Scottish moratorium is protecting communities across the country from this unwanted industry, but pressure for a full ban has been growing. SNP members have expressed their disappointment over their party’s decision to exclude a motion calling for a fracking ban from their Spring Conference.

“We urge the Scottish Government to ban unconventional gas and get on with the job of a genuine energy transformation to a fair, decentralised renewable system.”


Notes to Editors

1.Scottish Government announce moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas (28 Jan 2015) http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/fracking-moratorium-scotland

2. Public opinion survey results. ‘Fracking support falls to new low’ August 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/04/public-support-for-uk…

3. 2015 was the hottest year on record http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/20/2015-smashes-record-f…

4. Pennsylvania water contamination – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/science/earth/fracking-chemicals-detec…

5. Wales vote against fracking – https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/wales-votes-against-shale-gas-19074236… Northern Ireland adopts no frackimng policy – http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2427914/northern-ireland-adopts-no-… Netherlands extend moratorium – http://www.shalegas.international/2015/07/13/dutch-government-bans-shale… Moratorium is extended to Include Underground Coal Gasification (8 Oct 2015) http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/2071

6. US Geological Survey reported areas of Oklahoma near oil and gas fields experienced 585 such quakes in 2014 and 842 in 2015. The annual average is normally two per year. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/10/fracking-earthquakes-…

7. Lancashire County Council rejects Caudrilla fracking appication – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/29/fracking-application-… ; SNP anti-fracking campaign launched – http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/2059

8. Scottish house prices threatened by fracking – http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/2102

9. BHP Billiton writes down $7bn shale gas assets – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35320918 ; Half of US shale drillers may go bankrupt – http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/11/half-of-us-shale-drillers-may-go-bankrupt…

10. Friends of the Earth Scotland webpage on fracking with links to briefings and resources: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/fracking

11. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.