The UK’s first Public Inquiry into a planning application for commercial unconventional gas extraction at Airth, opens today (March 18th) at the Inchyra Hotel near Polmont.

Over 2,500 objections were made to Dart Energy’s plans for the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. Concerned Communities of Falkirk, FoE Scotland and both Falkirk and Stirling Councils are opposing the development.

Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “By drilling into untouched coal seams and mobilising methane and toxic chemicals to escape through faults in the ground, Dart’s proposals could seriously jeopardise Scotland’s climate targets as well as posing grave questions for local communities.

“In countries like Australia where the industry is more developed, it has failed to prove that the processes involved are safe and communities are starting to see the devastating impacts on their health and way of life.

“It’s increasingly clear that the public health and environmental risks of unconventional gas drilling are inherent and impossible to eliminate. What’s more, Scotland has abundant renewable energy sources, so we we don’t need this new risky gas.

“The local community has made it resoundingly clear that they do not want this industry on their doorstep, or anywhere. It is our hope that the Inquiry will support this position and signal the end of the unconventional gas industry in Scotland.”

The public inquiry is expected to cover complex technical ground, including potential public health and climate change impacts of the development. Its findings could set a precedent for unconventional gas plans around the UK.

Friends of the Earth Scotland will be leading two expert witnesses at the Inquiry. Dr John Broderick of the Tyndall Centre will give evidence on the climate change implications of going after a new source of fossil fuels, and Prof Christopher Hilson of Reading University will present on the inadequacies of the regulatory framework in responding to the industry.

A number of areas in Scotland are already under license for onshore unconventional gas development, but in December the UK Government published a map of areas, including vast swathes of Scotland, that could be licensed for future shale gas and coalbed methane extraction.

ENDS  

Notes to Editors

1. Inquiry dates: The Inquiry is currently scheduled to run for 3 consecutive weeks, a detailed timetable is anticipated shortly.

Week 1, Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk FK2 0YB

Tuesday 18 – Thursday 20 March – Geology, radioactivity, Hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water

Friday 21 March – Noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts

Week 2, Falkirk Stadium, Falkirk FK2 9EE

Monday 24 March – video evidence on geology, radioactivity, hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water, noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts

Tuesday 25 March – effects on the community

Wednesday 26 March – noise impacts, air quality, potential health (am); National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (pm)

Thursday 27 March – National and local policy, benefits of the proposal Friday 28 March – National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (am); Roads and traffic, habitats and ecology (pm)

Week 3, Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk FK2 0YB Monday

31 March – Relationship to other permissions and consents, Restrictions on planning permission, Timescale of the development, Regulatory guidance, Monitoring arrangements

Tuesday 1 April – Landscape and visual impacts, Conditions, legal agreements

Wednesday 2 April – Conditions, legal agreements, Overspill & potential accompanied site inspection

Thursday 3 April – Overspill & potential accompanied site inspection Dates for oral closing statements to be confirmed. —-

June 2014 – final draft Scottish Planning Policy published, includes proposals for buffer zones around unconventional gas drilling sites

11-12 June UK Shale gas and Tight Gas Conference, Edinburgh Summer 2014 – DECC publish British Geological Survey assessment of shale gas potential in Scotland

Autumn 2014 – licenses for 14th onshore round oil and gas licensing tendered by DECC

11 October 2014 – Global Frackdown Day III

2. For updates and documentation relating to the Public Local Inquiry into Planning Permission Appeal PPA-240-2032 and PPA-390-2029 please visit the Department for Planning and Environmental Appeals’ website at http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?id=94326

3. There are currently 5 areas under license in Scotland where unconventional gas activity has taken place (see http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/issues/uk_fracking_map_41274.html). Activity to date has focussed on coalbed methane drilling which carries many similar risks to the process of extracting shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. Unlike shale gas, coalbed methane extraction doesn’t always involve fracking – at least not in the early years of a development. Instead, coal seams are de-pressurised by pumping out large volumes of water. But as gas flow starts to decline after a few years, wells are often fracked to increase productivity. In Australia the industry estimates that up to 40% of coalbed methane wells end up being fracked.

4. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1724 – our press release on communities at risk of fracking and unconventional gas extraction across Scotland.

5. While the UK Coalition Government is furiously courting the unconventional gas industry, the Scottish Government’s attitude has been lukewarm. In October 2013 Scottish Ministers confirmed that they were minded to implement a proposal in the new draft Scottish Planning Policy for buffer zones between communities and gas drilling sites. While Friends of the Earth Scotland believe a ban on all unconventional gas extraction is necessary to protect the climate and communities, the Government’s proposals, if strengthened to specify a distance of 2km, would go some way to protecting local residents from the very worst of the public health impacts.

6. In 2014 the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will launch the tendering process for its 14th round of onshore licensing during which a vast swathe of the central belt of Scotland could be put out to tender for oil and gas exploration.

7. DECC has commissioned the British Geological Survey to undertake a study of the shale gas potential in the central belt of Scotland. The results of this study are expected in the summer.

8. Bans and moratoria around the world: · France: A nationwide ban on fracking · Switzerland: A moratorium on fracking was introduced in the canton of Fribourg · Germany: Moratorium in Northrhine-Westphalia on fracking. Lower Saxony likely to do the same. National moratorium written into new coalition Government agreement. · Bulgaria: Government banned fracking · Czech Republic: A moratorium on fracking, considering outright ban · Spain: Cantabria banned fracking, La Rioja is also currently considering same · Netherlands: Moratorium on unconventional fossil fuels · Denmark: Moratorium on fracking · Quebec: A moratorium on fracking · United States: Vermont banned fracking, and New York has moratorium · New South Wales: ban on any coal bed methane activity within 2km of residential areas, and within critical industry clusters such as winegrowing areas · Ireland: 2-year moratorium on fracking

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, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.