Unconventional coal gasification ban: What campaigners are saying

Nathanael Williams

Environmental groups hail ban of planning for unconventional coal gasifcation

CAMPAIGNERS and environmentalists have welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision yesterday [Thursday 6 October] to support a ban on unconventional coal gasification (UCG) in Scotland.

In the Scottish Parliament yesterday (7 October) Scottish Government energy minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP which stated that drilling in the Firth of Forth will not go ahead.

The Scottish Government had previously announced a moratorium on UCG in October 2015 before launching an independent investigation into the possible effects of UCG by Professor Campbell Gemmell at Glasgow University. Campaigners and scientists have long held that UCG can cause pollution and dangerous seismic activity.

A moratorium on UCG 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.

Many campaigners have used the opportunity of the UCG ban to insist that other types of unconventional fossil fuel drilling, which have also been found to be polluting and hazardous, be baned and a greater development of renewable energy promoted.

Common Space gives you the reactions from campaigning groups, environmental unions, politicians  and local communities to the news.

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland

“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.

“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."

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland

“This decision is great news for the environment and a victory for those who have fought tirelessly to resist these climate-trashing schemes.

“In the coming months we hope Scottish ministers will similarly reject plans to frack for gas. The science is clear – to protect our climate the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned.

“Pursuing new fossil fuels would be a distraction from the renewables revolution already underway in Scotland. With well over half of our electricity now coming from clean renewable sources, we should be focusing on expanding renewables in to other sectors such as heat and transport.

“We hope this decision sends a signal globally that Scotland is embracing the shift to a zero carbon future, and is determined to continue to be a climate change leader.”

Iain Black, spokesperson for SNP Members Against Unconventional Oil and Gas (SMAUG):

“We are delighted but not surprised at today’s news that the Scottish government has now placed a permanent ban on underground coal gasification.

“The SNP, by taking an evidence based approach to examine the environmental, health and economic impacts of this extraction technique, has come to the only reasonable conclusion- that UCG is too dangerous to be allowed.

“This is great news for communities across Scotland and in particular for those communities threatened along the Firth of Forth.  This ban is also a testament to the committed work by many local grassroots organisations and charities that have fought to protect our land, water, air, economy and health.

“A day after the Paris agreement was ratified, this move by the Scottish Government is in stark contrast to Westminster who only today gave the green light to fracking in Lancashire.  It shows that Scotland is taking its responsibilities to tackle climate change seriously.

“Smaug now looks forward to this ban being extended to include fracking and coal bed methane extraction and so further committing Scotland to an energy future based on our abundant renewable assets.”

Mark Ruskell MSP, Climate & Energy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens:

"It's been a long battle and I congratulate the many communities groups and individuals around Scotland who have stood resolutely against UCG.

“It has taken time for Scottish ministers to realise the devastating impact that this dangerous technology would have on the local environment, workers and our potential to develop low-carbon industries.

"It's essential that the relevant planning guidance is brought to Parliament as soon as possible. The minister's intention is good but actions are what counts.

"Of course, uncertainty remains for communities across central Scotland as the government's reports on the separate issue of fracking, which were due this summer, have yet to be published. Let's hope today's ruling out of UCG indicates the direction of travel."

Picture courtesy of Ric Lander, Mary Church, SMAUG, YouTube

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