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.