Good news from Scotland, as Energy Minister Fergus Ewing
this week announced a moratorium on the fracking industry while a full health
impact assessment and public consultation is carried out. The decision came
after a sustained campaign by a number of anti-fracking groups across the
country, including Friends of the Earth Scotland.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth
Scotland, said: "Fergus Ewing's announcement is huge victory for
the communities, individuals and groups who have been campaigning to stop this
dirty industry in Scotland. This moratorium is a very big nail in the coffin
for the unconventional gas and fracking industry in Scotland. Any serious
examination of the mounting evidence will inevitably lead to a ban. The
Scottish Government has acted decisively today to protect communities across
the country and the environment from this unnecessary industry."
Mr Ewing also confirmed that it would be inappropriate to
grant any planning permissions for unconventional gas while this work is being
carried out. This means at least considerable delay if not the end of Dart
Energy's plans for commercial coalbed methane at Airth, near Falkirk. Thousands
of people locally and across the country opposed this development and Friends
of the Earth Scotland fought alongside the community at a public inquiry last
year. In the south, Canonbie, where 19 planning permissions for coalbed methane
extraction exist, is also protected by the government's new policy.
However, the moratorium announced today is not comprehensive
as it does not include underground coal gasification, where coal is set alight
underground and gas collected at the surface.
Dr Dixon continued: "We are disappointed that
underground coal gasification has been excluded from this moratorium. This
desperate method of extracting yet more fossil fuels involves setting coal
seams alight deep underground and has been linked to serious pollution in
recent trials. Going after new fossil fuels is the last thing we need in the
context of the latest, urgent warnings from climate science, and is not a
responsible action for a country trying to meet its targets."
However, the move is a huge step forward towards the
ultimate goal of a comprehensive ban across the country.
"While we are calling for an outright ban, a halt on
the industry while a full examination of health and environmental impacts is
carried out is very welcome. Scotland joins France, Ireland, the Netherlands
and New York State in a long list of countries and regions which have acted to
stop the unconventional gas industry. We are convinced that a proper
examination of the mounting evidence of health and environmental concerns must
lead to a full ban."
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