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8th October 2015
Responding to the announcement of a Scottish Government moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification, Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
“Well done to Fergus Ewing for announcing this important new moratorium. Underground coal gasification is a risky and experimental technique, with a very chequered history around the world. This industry clearly deserves the same public scrutiny as shale gas fracking and coal bed methane.”
UCG is a form of unconventional gas extraction which involves igniting coal seams underground or under the sea and capturing the gas produced at the surface. Proposals are currently being developed for the Forth and the Solway. The Scottish Government emphasised that the moratorium on UCG is separate to the one in place on shale gas fracking and coalbed methane, and has appointed Professor Campbell Gemmell, former CEO of SEPA, to lead an independent examination of the issues and evidence surrounding the industry.
The Scottish Government has also today published details of the timescales and remit of research into the public health and environmental impacts of unconventional gas extraction and a public consultation to inform the moratorium on fracking and coalbed methane extraction. The remit of the research has broadened since the January announcement of a moratorium to include research on climate change, economic impacts, traffic impacts, seismic monitoring and decommissioning.
“We warmly welcome the Scottish Government’s detailed timetable for action, and the extended research remit announced today. This framework for reviewing shale gas fracking and coalbed methane looks like a well designed process, over a sensible timescale. The experience from the growing number of states and regions around the world with bans and moratoriums is clear that undertaking a thorough review of unconventional gas cannot be rushed.
“We strongly urge individuals and communities to fully engage with this process and make their opposition to this dirty industry clear. All too often the millions spent on PR by big corporations can crowd out the voices of affected communities and those speaking up for the environment and public health when it comes to important policy or decisions like this. INEOS and others have big budgets at their disposal to get their points across. It is vital that people the length and breadth of Scotland who don't want to see the central belt wrecked by the fossil fuel industry make their voice count in this review.
“There is a growing body of evidence from around the world that fracking for shale gas, extracting coal-bed methane and the underground coal gasification process poses unacceptable risks for human health and the environment. In December 2014 New York State joined a number of countries and regions in deciding to banning fracking after undertaking a two-year assessment on the impacts of fracking on human health and the environment.
“We are particularly glad that climate change impacts are to be the subject of detailed study. In the context of our international obligations to cut emissions it would be completely irresponsible for a hydrocarbon-rich nation like Scotland to open up a new frontier of fossil fuels, further exacerbating the climate crisis.
“We are confident that when the evidence is independently assessed and the Scottish public have had a chance to voice their concerns, this consultation will lead to a full ban on unconventional gas and fracking.”
1. The Scottish Government's announcement of a moratorium on underground coal gasification and details of the research timetable is here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Moratorium-on-underground-coal-gasifica…
2. The Scottish Government announced a moratorium on Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane extraction, including fracking, on 28 January 2015 pending a health impact assessment report, a public consultation, regulatory reform and planning reform: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/fracking-moratorium-scotland
3. New York state implemented a ban on fracking after a two-year Department of Health study concluded that not enough was known about the health and environmental risks: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/17/cuomo-fracking-new-york-state_n…
4. Friends of the Earth briefing on Underground Coal Gasification here: http://foes.do/UCG_briefing
5. 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.