Broad Alliance submits the community case for a ban

Campaigners gathered at Holyrood to hand in thousands of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation, all of them demanding an outright ban.

The groups that form the Broad Alliance have submitted their joint case for ruling this industry out, once and for all, in Scotland. You can read our submission here.

Donald Campbell, Chair of the Alliance presented the submission and thousands of other individual postcard response, to Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse. Around 40,000 people have responded to the public consultation, and it is understood that the vast majority have said a resounding NO to UOGE in Scotland.

"Throughout our active campaigning and extensive engagement in communities threatened with UOGE development, we found absolutely no support anywhere for this industry. In fact we have found universal opposition," said Donald Campbell, joining other BA members at the Scottish Parliament.

"This level of opposition represents a total refusal of any social licence for UOGE in Scotland. If this proves not to be the deciding factor in the decision on whether to ban UOGE, then the Scottish government will have to honestly admit where in Scottish society it has identified support for this industry, and whose interests will be served by permitting it.

"However, today we are hoping that the government is listening and will stick to the promise Nicola Sturgeon made, when she told the Scottish parliament that unless it could be proved UOGE could be done without risk to health and the environment, it would not be permitted."

Knitting Grannies highlight health risks of methane gas

A group of Knitting Grannies against Unconventional Gas will gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, on Thursday 25th May from 12 noon – 2pm to knit beanies for babies and to urge people to take the opportunity to make their voice heard on unconventional gas (fracking) in Scotland.

The Scottish government's public consultation is open now but ends on May 31st. The Knitting Grannies want people to take the opportunity to make clear that there is no social licence for this industry anywhere in Scotland.

When completed, the Beanies will be presented to the Neo Natal Unit at NHS Forth Valley. NHS Forth Valley is located in Larbert, Falkirk close to an area where 22 coal bed methane wells could could be drilled if the Scottish government don't ban unconventional gas.

Rhona MacLeod, a retired RN and OH Nurse, who's the 'Knitting Granny against Unconventional Gas' tasked with organising this event said:

"I'm excited to be using my creative and other skills to raise awareness in this way! A call-out has already been made for more volunteers to join us on Thursday, and we ask that they 'BYO' folding chair, knitting needles or crochet hooks and some machine-washable pure wool in pink, blue or yellow."

Rhona spent time in Australia, where she was part of Lock The Gate, the Australian community-based campaign against unconventional gas. She points out  that the company that originally wanted to drill in Forth Valley, Dart Energy, was forced out of New South Wales when the state government there introduced a 2km buffer zone to protect communities and what the NSW government called "Critical Industry Clusters".

Dart then moved into Scotland, with a licence for 22 coal bed methane wells, a compressor station and other infrastructure, at Airth. In the end they sold off their licence to INEOS, who have said in their literature that a 400m buffer zone is sufficient protection for communities in Scotland and more recently suggest the distance could be even less.

Maria Montinaro, of Concerned Communities of Falkirk (www.faug.org.uk) said: "This event is important because:

1.   We need to highlight the Scottish Government's current public consultation on Unconventional Oil & Gas Extraction (aka fracking) that ends on 31st May – and thereby encourage more people to respond.

2.   People need to understand the potential environmental and health impacts from UOGE/ fracking. Those at greatest risk are the most vulnerable in our society - babies in the developmental stages of life. They have no voice and they're particularly at risk of developing neo-natal health problems. We are not scaremongering as the industry would have you believe.

3.   The environmental and health effects /impacts, both short and long term, of UOGE/fracking are not properly understood or even known yet. The risks, together with the:

  • inevitable industrialisation of our countryside
  • constraints of population density
  • opposition of local communities under threat
  • extensive underground mine workings, and 
  • pre-existing seismicity and fault lines in the Central Belt

mean a ban is the only rational option."

"The global alert released in 2012 by United Nations Environment Programme acknowledged that it is impossible to regulate this industry into safety and unintended impacts are inevitable:

UG exploitation and production may have unavoidable environmental impacts. Some risks result if the technology is not used adequately, but others will occur despite proper use of technology. UG production has the potential to generate considerable GHG emissions, can strain water resources, result in water contamination, may have negative impacts on public health (through air and soil contaminants; noise pollution), on biodiversity (through land clearance), food supply (through competition for land and water resources), as well as on soil (pollution, crusting).’ (UNEP Global Environmental Alert System 2012)"

For those who're unable to attend donations of completed beanies are welcome. People can make contact with Rhona to make arrangements for uplift or posting. We've been asked by the Neo Natal Unit to ensure they're made with wool that's machine-washable.

More information about the proposed drilling in Airth.

The application to drill at Airth was challenged by communities and at a public enquiry both Falkirk and Stirling Councils, with a population of over 240,000 people, recommended refusal.

They based this view on a peer review of the evidence on the impact of coal seam gas from Australia, the kind of evidence that led the NSW government introduce the buffer zone and also start buying back licences to prevent further development.

There were specific objections to the Dart application from:

  • 9 Falkirk Community Councils representing 70,000+ residents,
  • West Fife & Coastal Villages Community Councils Forum representing 18 coastal villages, representing 20,000+
  • 33 local farmers
  • Network Rail
  • Cala Consortium

The public enquiry was completed and the reporter was considering his decision when the Scottish government introduced the moratorium on unconventional gas. At that point it was decided to hold off until a nationwide decision is reached.

More than 5,000 petition Scottish government to ban fracking

Campaigners hand in petition

Campaigners from Torrance and Strathaven are heading for Holyrood (Tuesday May 2nd, 3pm) to hand in a petition calling for a ban on fracking, and all forms of unconventional oil and gas. They'd love it if people from the Broad Alliance could join them.

5,187 signed the petition, organised through 38 Degrees, was started by East Dunbartonshire resident Ruth Dunster who explained: 

I live in Torrance, a beautiful village in a scenic, unspoilt valley in Scotland. I  found out last year that Ineos Upstream Ltd have plans for a fracking operation here - and in a whole swathe of communities in other areas across Scotland. Fracking is a process which forces water deep underground at very high pressure to force gas to the surface. It has an appalling and frightening track record around several countries, especially the USA and Australia.
The Scottish Government is already being lobbied by powerful companies like Ineos to move away from our renewable energy strategy and invest in this toxic and dangerous industry instead. Please tell the Ministers responsible for energy and environment policies that we want Scotland to invest in renewable energy technologies and refuse to grant fracking licenses to companies like Ineos Upstream.
Scotland is at the turning point. Either we invest in the sort of technologies out there for clean, cheap energy - like Norway's huge hydro power scheme which creates most of their energy - or we go down the toxic energy road of the fracking business lobby's plans.

Economic boom? Think Again

This text was produced by the Broad Alliance in response to an article In Scottish Review written by fossil fuel industry lobbyist Ryan Stevenson. Stevenson claimed that Scotland would be turning its back on a hugely profitable new industry if it did not go for UOGE. The article was published in the review on 29 November.

Ryan Stevenson's claim (11 November) that UOGE (unconventional oil and gas extraction) would be an 'economic boom' for Scotland is refuted by KPMG’s impact study conducted for the Scottish Government. Perhaps he hasn’t read it.

The KPMG report states: 'According to our estimates, the industry could represent an average of 0.1% of Scottish GDP (2015 figure) in our Central scenario and 0.3% in our High scenario which is not a large contribution to the Scottish economy.' The total additional impact of UOGE on the Scottish economy would be a paltry £30m a year over 42 years.

The total of jobs would be 1400 FTE at the peak and even that would depend on how well pads are developed – if it is simply one or two teams going from place to place, the total will be even lower. And many of those jobs will be for HGV drivers, transporting waste water and liquid gas around on Scotland’s roads. Why on earth would Scottish communities give any social licence to an industry that carries such risks in return for such paltry amounts?

The SNP’s 2016 election manifesto declares: 'We will not allow fracking or underground coal gasification in Scotland unless it can be proved beyond any doubt that it will not harm our environment, communities or public health.'

This position accords with the precautionary principle and is the reason for the Scottish Government’s (SG) ban on underground coal gasification (UCG). The same precautionary principle led to New York State’s ban on fracking in December 2014. The compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking, compiled by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, underpins this decision.

INEOS owner Jim Ratcliffe’s assertion that 'there is no science behind the vocal minority’s opposition,' is blatantly false. The expanding body of scientific evidence (200 peer-reviewed studies on fracking published so far this year), presented to the Scottish Government by the Broad Alliance, provides more than sufficient scientific evidence for an immediate ban. It is the view of the Pennsylvania Medical Association, who in October called for a ban on fracking.

Ratcliffe’s contention that over a million shale wells have been safely drilled in the US, and that the US is 'the most highly regulated market' also needs exposing in view of the Halliburton Loophole.

At the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, former chief executive of Halliburton, the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted the hydraulic fracturing drilling process from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate UOGE. Without these exemptions, it is unlikely that the industry would have been able to proceed. The idea that INEOS, the major licence holder in Scotland and across the UK, wants us to take the US as a model for regulation is deeply concerning.

The impact studies show that permitting UOGE will scupper Scotland’s emissions targets. The climate change committee’s impact study says UOGE can only be permitted if it displaces imports – but this is now unachievable because INEOS has a contract to import gas from the US for at least the next 15 years. UOGE produced in Scotland would be additional. A further requirement is that emissions must be offset by reductions elsewhere. The largest forecast is that UOGE would produce 1.6 million tons of CO2e/year by 2035. So where can such savings be found?

As Dr Iain Black put it: '1.6 million tons of CO2e/year is larger than the savings the whole Scottish agricultural sector has been asked to make. So, in effect, we are saying: "Thank you, farmers of Scotland, all your hard work reducing emissions is going to allow us to turn swathes of the central belt into industrial zones and to threaten the water you use." Good luck selling that'. 

The climate impact report also demands well-by-well monitoring of emissions and a framework for rapid shutdown. But a recent study by Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University found that the UK’s regulatory agencies are not equipped to deliver intensive regulation.

It is implausible that an under-resourced SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) could properly regulate something of the nature and scale of the UOGE industry, in the most densely populated region of Scotland where extensive underground mine-workings and geological faulting constitute unique and novel extractive challenges. Moreover, Scottish communities would not agree to additional funding to regulate an industry which represents minimal economic benefit for them or their country. SEPA is stretched to the limit already – how much would their budget need to increase to achieve the regulation needed, and why should we pay it?

KPMG’s study does not even attempt to quantify negative impacts on existing sustainable and currently healthy industries including tourism, construction, farming, food and drink – or our whisky industry, which is reliant on pure, clean Scottish water. Studies in America have shown house prices fall within two miles of a well by 25%, with many home owners unable to sell. Estate agents in the central belt of Scotland report they are already being asked about possible well locations, and have estimated a drop of 10% in house prices.

The industry hails Aberdeen as an example of the prosperity oil and gas could bring communities embracing UOGE but Grangemouth, at the dirty end of the business, is the more realistic comparison. In spite of Grangemouth hosting multiple petrochemical giants, five of the datazones in Grangemouth fall within the bottom 15% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and residents’ circumstances are not improving.

On these bases we do not foresee an 'economic boom' from UOGE, but rather a wholesale harm to the economic health and environment of communities across Scotland’s most productive region, and a complete loss of faith in government regulation and action on climate change. That’s a high price to pay for an industry that we now know for sure will deliver no real economic benefit to the Scottish economy.

Donald Campbell writes here on behalf of the Broad Alliance of Concerned Communities Against Unconventional Gas, a lobby group

Question your health board about UGE impacts

Our Forth decided that it would prudent to ensure that there are adequate measures and resources in place to cope with any potential health implication brought of any Unconventional Gas developments in Scotland. Of course, we all hope these won't be needed, but if the government were to start to permit UGE, including test drilling, Health Boards and NHS Scotland need to be starting to think now about the implications.

Our Forth have put the following questions to NHS Lothian, and NHS Scotland. They suggest that all the groups should follow suit. Your relevant health board will have an annual review process, but this may be over. However, there are still opportunities to submit questions and to attend open meetings. Check your health board's website for details.

We have included a general question to ask from the floor if you attend a meeting, and more detailed questions to be submitted in writing in advance. We have also included questions for NHS Scotland, and we believe it would be good if all the groups of the Broad Alliance asked these questions.

Please send any replies to info@broad-alliance.org and we will collate them, providing useful evidence.

Question to ask from the floor at a health board meeting:

What steps have you taken to protect public health against the risks associated with unconventional energy generation?

Questions to submit in advance to your health board

1) Health Board: What protocols do you have in place, or in development, to address the health risks and adverse effects resulting from the range of existing and emerging energy generation techniques?  (Including, but not limited to, unconventional gas extraction (UGE), biomass and renewables.)

2) Health Board: What training is available to clinical and support staff who will need to respond to the chronic and acute health needs of people affected by unconventional gas extraction, such as fracking and UCG?

3)What systems, baseline measures and monitoring are
   - in place already
   - in development
to measure the prevalence and nature of health conditions (reflecting all body systems, including, but not limited to, respiratory, dermatological and oncological diseases and mental health conditions) caused by fracking, UCG and other forms of UGE?

4) Health Board: What steps will you take in the event of inadequate measures being taken by bodies such as SEPA, in order to protect public health?

5) Health Board and NHS Health Scotland: Given that prevention is much more cost effective that treatment or cure, to what extent does NHS Lothian’s/NHS Health Scotland’s budget invest in preventing ill-health resulting from unconventional gas extraction, biomass and other energy production technologies?

6) Health Board and NHS Health Scotland: Have impact assessments been undertaken to assess and negate the impact of unconventional gas extraction and other energy generation techniques, such as biomass and renewables?  If so, are these impact assessments available in the public domain?

Questions for NHS Scotland

1) Unconventional fuel extraction is most likely to affect densely population parts of Scotland, and those with lower incomes will be least able to move home or take other steps to avoid the negative health effects of technologies such as fracking, including test drilling. What protocols and other measures do you have in place or in development to counter the health inequalities experienced by communities affected by fracking, other forms of UGE, biomass and other forms of energy generation, including renewables?

2)Have impact assessments been undertaken to assess and negate the impact of unconventional gas extraction and other energy generation techniques, such as biomass and renewables?  If so, are these impact assessments available in the public domain?

In defence of Professor David Smythe

Concerned Communities of Falkirk have come to the defence of Professor David Smythe, whose rights as an Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Glasgow, are under attack. Leaked emails suggest the reason the University has withdrawn his email address and most crucially access to the global research community and publications, is because of what he is written about the danger of Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction.

You can read the letter, and more about the case, in their letter published in The Ferret, here