The initial term of the onshore petroleum exploration and development licence, or PEDL162 as it is known, owned by Ineos and Reach CSG – which was earmarked for fracking covering 400km2 in the central belt – was due to expire in June, but it has now been extended by 12 months.
This is despite pressure from campaigners, community councils and local area MSP Angus MacDonald and MPs Martyn Day and John McNally calling for the licence not to be renewed.
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns Mary Church said: “Extending this license risks adding to the confusion caused by INEOS’s recent legal challenge, and only increases the pressure on the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision making process, legislate to ban fracking and draw a line under this issue for good.
“It is disappointing the Scottish Government has opted to extend the license that was due to expire last month, when people locally and nationally have said no to fracking so clearly.
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“The operators have already had one extension to this license and despite having consents in place before the moratorium on fracking, they hadn’t fulfilled their drilling commitments, so clearly this license should have been revoked.
“While it is unlikely the operators will be able to do much in terms of advancing their shale gas ambitions in 12 months, it is an uncomfortable position for the Scottish Government to take given its opposition to fracking.”
Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The extension of the PEDL 162 licence does not alter the current position that we do not support the development of unconventional oil and gas while the statutory assessments on the Scottish Government’s longer-term preferred policy are undertaken, as explained in the Minister’s statement last October.
“It should be remembered that the area affected does not have planning permission or the necessary environmental licences required prior to allowing any unconventional oil and gas extraction.”
Back in 2014, when it was awarded the licence, Ineos stated it was one of the very few businesses that can use shale gas as both a fuel and petrochemical feedstock and the move towards fracking was a “logical step” which they were “very excited about”.