Fracking moratorium splits opinion

Fracking remains a contentious issue with the public but the SNP must lead the way with rational discussion. Picture: TSPL
Fracking remains a contentious issue with the public but the SNP must lead the way with rational discussion. Picture: TSPL

Energy minister Fergus Ewing’s fracking moratorium pleased campaigners ... but led to warnings that the economy will suffer.

According to Grangemouth petrochemical giant Ineos the decision, announced yesterday, to ban the granting of planning consents for all fracking and unconventional oil and gas developments pending further inquiries could have a devastating impact on the future of its business and the industry as a whole.

An anti-fracking protestor outside the Ineos office in Grangemouth. Picture: Michael Gillen

An anti-fracking protestor outside the Ineos office in Grangemouth. Picture: Michael Gillen

Mr Ewing has also ordered a public consultation, a full public health assessment and an environmental impact study.

Grangemouth Councillor Robert Spears said: “I would like to see full investigations carried out in countries where fracking developments have gone ahead. We need to know what the future holds for our communities if this does go ahead.”

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said the public consultation, which Mr Ewing also announced, would ensure communities in Falkirk and across Scotland would be heard on the issue.

Mr MacDonald said: “This announcement will be welcomed by communities across Scotland who have been alarmed by the gung-ho stance on fracking taken by the Westminster Government.”

It was stated in Scottish Parliament yesterday the moratorium did not effect any licences for fracking and unconventional gas applications which had already been given the go ahead.

Further controls over fracking are scheduled to be devolved to Scotland after May’s general election.

Focus on benefits rather than the risks, says Ineos

Petrochemical giant Ineos has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to focus on the benefits of fracking rather than the potential risks.

The firm, which has invested millions in securing shale gas supplies and holds two fracking licences covering 120,000 acres in Grangemouth, reacted angrily to the UK Government’s Environment Audit Committee on Monday calling for fracking developments to be stopped.

The committee stated fracking would be detrimental of climate targets and the process of hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to shatter rock formations and release gas, still held too many uncertainties over impacts on water, soil and human health.

They also said shale gas is unlikely to be commercially viable.

Ineos director Tom Crotty said: “The UK needs shale gas and Ineos has the skills to safely extract it from the ground without damaging the environment. Without shale gas, UK manufacturing will start to collapse so we need to kick start the shale gas industry, not put it on hold.

“The committee deliberately sought out views that focused on concerns about water quality, emissions and geological integrity and so produced a partisan and partial report.”

Anti-fracking campaigners welcomed the committee’s report.

Friends of the Earth director Richard Dixon said: “This adds to evidence of health and environmental problems giving plenty of reason to call a total halt to this industry.”

Governments are both looking at fracking issue

Fracking is being debated in the Scottish and UK Parliaments as the process continues to be a hot environmental topic.

In Holyrood Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said he would ban fracking using devolved powers.

He said: “If I am elected First Minister in 2016 there will be no onshore fracking in Scotland until it has been shown beyond all doubt that it can be carried out safely.”

He also called for the introduction of tighter controls, including local referendums before planning permission is granted for fracking applications.

Opposition parties warned this stance would jeopardise the future of Ineos in Grangemouth.

Scottish Government energy minister Fergus Ewing then called for the UK Government not to issue any more onshore oil and gas licences in Scotland until full powers in this area are devolved to Holyrood.

In Westminster ministers defeated a bid to introduce a moratorium on unconventional gas and fracking.

SNP ministers and others supported an amendment to call a halt on the industry while it is assessed further, but they were out voted.

Mary Church, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The UK Government has demonstrated wilful disregard for the mounting evidence and ever-increasing community opposition against unconventional gas by pushing ahead with their plans to go ‘all out for shale’.