Reacting to the news that Scottish Ministers have called in Dart Energy’s appeal to the Department for Planning and Environmental Appeals for commercial coalbed methane extraction at Airth, near Falkirk, Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:

“Dart Energy’s application for commercial coalbed methane extraction at Airth is the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. Given the highly controversial nature of this industry and the significance of this particular application as a UK first, it is right that it is determined at the highest level. Ultimately Ministers are taking responsibility for getting this important decision right, and we sincerely hope they take account of the very legitimate concerns of the local community, and do the right thing by rejecting the application.

“Scotland does not need unconventional gas to meet our energy needs, and extracting and burning it will jeopardise our climate targets and expose local people to unacceptable health risks. We urge the Scottish Government to take a truly cautious approach by turning down this application and introducing an immediate moratorium on all unconventional gas activity.

“The evidence presented during the inquiry process about the health and environmental impacts of coalbed methane extraction is constantly being built on by new research that points to a very grim future indeed if the industry is allowed to get a foothold in the central belt of Scotland.

“Under UK Government plans, over 20,000 square km of the most populated part of the country could be licensed for unconventional gas extraction, including shale gas fracking and coalbed methane drilling. No lifecycle environmental or public health impact assessment has been carried out to evaluate the risks of the UK Government’s dash for unconventional gas. This is the very serious context in which Scottish Ministers must determine whether Dart Energy can go ahead with their plans for commercial extraction, potentially opening the door to hundreds of applications for gas wells across Scotland.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1.The announcement from the Scottish Government is at http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Planning-appeals-recalled-113e.aspx
The Ministerial direction is at http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/Document.aspx?id=223721

2. Dart Energy’s flagship coalbed methane development at Airth is the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. In June 2013 Dart appealed its application for 22 new wells, a gas and water treatment facility and a network of pipelines to the Scottish Government’s Department for Planning and Environmental Appeals on grounds of non-determination – that local authorities had taken too long. The planned development does not include the use of hydraulic fracturing technique, but the health and environmental impacts of coalbed methane extraction are similar to those of shale gas fracking. The appeal was heard by Public Inquiry in Spring 2014. Over 2,500 individual objections were lodged, with 9 community councils representing over 70,000 people and 2 local authorities calling on the Scottish Government to refuse the application. Coalbed methane activity at Dart Energy’s site at Canonbie appears to be on hold pending the outcome of the Airth decision. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is currently investigating a complaint about the way the 19 planning permissions were dealt with. Dart Energy is being bought out by the biggest fracking company in the UK, IGas, in a deal expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

3. DECC launched the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round on 28th July 2014 in which 20,000 square km in Scotland are offered to tender for shale gas fracking and other hydrocarbon exploitation, FoES reaction: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/offered-central-belt-fracking

4. The UK Government intends to proceed with plans to remove peoples’ rights to object to, or even be notified about, fracking underneath their homes, despite the stated objection of the Scottish Government and over 99% of respondents to its consultation. The plans apply to shale gas and oil only as comparable rights for coalbed methane extraction were removed under the 1994 Coal Industry Act. FoES reaction: http://foe-scotland.org.uk/UK-government-ignores-public-opposition-fracking

5. Bans and moratoriums around the world include:
· France: First country to ban March 2011
· Denmark: Moratorium on fracking
· Germany: Moratorium on hydraulic fracturing since 2012, considering a ban
· Bulgaria: Ban since January 2012
· Czech Republic: Moratorium in May 2012
· Netherlands: Moratorium on unconventional fossil fuel drilling
· Spain: Cantabria banned fracking in 2013 La Rioja, Navarra and Catalonia followed suit
· Switzerland: Moratorium on fracking in the canton of Fribourg 2011
· Ireland: 2-year moratorium in March 2013
· Northern Ireland: Assembly voted for moratorium, Government failed to implement
· Canada: Quebec & Newfoundland moratorium on fracking, Nova Scotia working toward ban
· USA: Vermont banned fracking in May 2012, and New York moratorium in 2013; New Jersey ban on waste water disposal
· Australia: New South Wales, ban on any coal seam gas activity in 2km of residential areas, Feb 2013; Victoria moratorium on fracking

6. 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, 74 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.