Fracking kicked into election long grass

Will the Scottish Government’s fracking moratorium and consultation be the end of fracking in Scotland, or just a temporary delay?

Rob Edwards in the Sunday Herald, reports that the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, is planning to announce that the Scottish Government’s consultation will begin in November and run until January. When he announced a temporary moratorium on fracking and coalbed methane developments on January 28, he promised a health investigation and a public consultation. He said he would announce the consultation “in around two months” and it would last for 12 weeks. This means that any decision to maintain or end the moratorium is unlikely to be made before the Scottish Parliament election in May 2016.

Green MSP, Alison Johnstone said:

“Given the huge level of public concern, it is simply unacceptable that Scottish ministers have failed to bring forward their promised consultation by now. Many people will be wondering if the SNP is trying to delay making a decision on fracking until after the next Holyrood election. We need to see the current moratorium become a permanent ban.”

Even supporters of fracking have attacked the delay. Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, Murdo Fraser MSP, described the moratorium as a “political fix to kick this important issue into the long grass”.

The fracking industry has been notably silent on the issue. While they will find the delay irritating, they know that Ewing is supporter of fracking and will want to give him some political headroom. He was outmanoeuvred by Labour on the left into agreeing the moratorium and many of the local anti-fracking groups are full of SNP activists.

In addition, Fergus Ewing has received a letter signed by organisations including Friends of the Earth, UNISON and the Women’s Environmental Network, as well as a number of community anti-fracking groups and academics, expressing their “grave concern” that UCG is not currently covered by the scope of the Scottish government’s moratorium.

The letter said: “While we are disappointed that Coal Authority licensing is not proposed to be devolved to Holyrood under the Smith Commission, we note that the means of imposing a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas developments – ensuring that no planning permissions or environmental permits are granted for these developments – could equally be applied to underground coal gasification.”

Kicking a decision into the election long grass is probably the best solution the industry could hope for and it certainly works for Fergus Ewing.

 

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  • Posted in: Gas

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