Friends of the Earth Scotland has warmly welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to ban Underground Coal Gasification today. Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced this afternoon that UCG poses numerous and serious environmental risks and should have no place in Scotland's energy mix.

Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:

“This is a victory for people power. Setting coal seams alight under two of our major Firths was always a reckless idea and today the Government has listened to communities and put an end to this risky industry. We very warmly welcome the Energy Minister's announcement of an effective ban on underground coal gasification.

“The history of UCG is littered with contamination incidents, ground subsidence and industrial accidents. Today's announcement will come as a huge relief to communities around the Forth and Solway Firths faced with this highly experimental technology, and give heart to communities threatened by other intrusive new fossil fuels. We look forward to the Scottish Government acting swiftly to ban shale gas fracking and coalbed methane drilling once it has finished its review.

“Today's UCG decision is the first time the Scottish Government has said no to more fossil fuel extraction and marks a hugely important turning point in the fight against climate change. To have any chance of keeping warming under the critical 1.5C limit we need a radical and fair overhaul of our energy systems, and commitment to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.”

A moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification was put in place on 8 October 2015, separately from the ongoing moratorium on shale gas fracking and coalbed methane extraction. The fracking moratorium continues, with a set of studies underway and a public consultation due this winter.

Church continued:

“Celebration of this decision in Scotland is bittersweet given the news that the UK Government have ignored massive community opposition and approved fracking in Lancashire today. Fracking should not happen here in Scotland or anywhere. We stand in solidarity with the people of Lancashire.”


Contact details: Connal Hughes
Friends of the Earth Scotland Press Office


Notes to Editors

1. At Holyrood this afternoon Mr Wheelhouse said:

“UCG poses numerous and serious environmental risks and on that basis the Scottish Government cannot support this technology. Accordingly, UCG will have no place in Scotland's energy mix at this time.

“Our Energy Strategy for Scotland…will set out an energy mix for the future that does not include Underground Coal Gasification.

The Minister has asked the UK Government to revoke existing UCG licenses in Scotland, and indicated that the Scottish Government would continue to use planning powers to ensure that UCG would not go ahead.

2. There are currently six UCG licenses in Scotland. Cluff Natural Resources hold 3 licences in the Firth of Forth at Frances, Kincardine and Largo Bay. Five Quarter hold 3 licences at Central Firth of Forth, Musselburgh Offshore Area and the Solway Firth. Five Quarter recently went into receivership. The licenses are issued by the Coal Authority which remains reserved to Westminster. The Scottish Government can use planning and environmental regulation powers to stop UCG in Scotland.

3. The Scottish Government commissioned a review of UCG from Prof Campbell Gemmell, former CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, to inform their decision. Prof Gemmell submitted his report to Ministers last month. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Moratorium-on-underground-coal-gasification-1e1a.aspx

A separate evidence gathering process on shale gas and coalbed methane is drawing to a close with a number of studies expected to be published soon, and a public consultation due this winter.

4. In July Friends of the Earth published a global review of the terrible record of Underground Coal Gasification experiments around the world ‘Fuelling the Fire’ – http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/UCG-fuelling-fire-report

5. The Queensland State Government banned Underground Coal Gasification earlier this year following the catastrophic failure of a UCG test project. Operator Linc Energy is being sued by the Government for ‘irreversible environmental damage’ and the company has recently gone into liquidation and so is unlikely to pay the clean-up costs estimated to be around A$30 million. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/18/queensland-bans-underground-coal-gasification-over-environmental-risk

6. A study from researchers at the University of Colorado and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published yesterday indicates that methane emissions from fossil fuels are up to 60% higher than previously thought. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/05/fossil-fuel-industrys-methane-emissions-far-higher-than-thought

7. Supporters of UCG have claimed that the industry could bring up to £6bn to the Scottish economy and support nearly 5,000 direct and indirect jobs. However these figures fail to take into account any adverse impacts on local jobs and economy from the environmental and health impacts of the industry http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-34319104

The renewables industry already supports 21,000 jobs in Scotland with tens of thousands more in the pipeline https://www.scottishrenewables.com/sectors/renewables-in-numbers/

With the right planning and investment, a fair and just transition away from to a low carbon economy could bring 200,000 direct jobs to the Scottish economy by 2035 https://greens.scot/sites/default/files/Policy/Jobs_in_Scotland_New_Economy.pdf

8. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid today overruled the decision Lancashire County Council to refuse Cuadrilla permission to frack at its Preston New Road site despite over 18,000 local objections. A second decision on Cuadrilla's application to frack at nearby Roseacre Wood has been deferred pending more information on transport impacts. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/06/uk-fracking-given-go-ahead-as-lancashire-council-rejection-is-overturned

9. 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.