Friends of Earth rally Falkirk objectors to £500 million Dart Energy plan

Residents in local communities concerned about the plans by Dart  Energy to develop the Airth coal bed methane field in Stirlingshire – had the opportunity last night to air their views at a meeting in Larbert High School.

Listed on the Australian stock market, but with its head office in Singapore, Dart Energy runs its European operations from an office in Stirling and is the leading unconventional gas developer in Scotland. Its Airth coal bed methane project is the most advanced in its global portfolio.

The UK has significant reserves of unconventional gas trapped inside shale rock and coal seams. However there is considerable uncertainty as to how much of the resource is recoverable

In Scotland, the largest onshore unconventional gas reserves are coal bed methane found across the Central Belt, Fife and Scottish Borders, with some shale deposits in the Forth Valley.

Dart’s mining plans for Airth are due to be heard in a public inquiry starting in March 2014 by Scottish Government Reporters – the specialist planning law ‘appeal court’ for Tier-1 major construction and infrastructure developments. The Inquiry is expected to be lengthy and cover complex technical ground including potential public health and climate change impacts of the development.

The application faces strong community resistance, with over 2,500 objections. Falkirk and Stirling councils recently announced their opposition to the development, signalling a further deterioration in the relationship between the planning authorities and Dart.

Norman Philip, Friends of the Earth Falkirk Co-ordinator said: “The Falkirk communities have been asked to take more than their fair share of the polluting industries for the benefit of the Scottish economy.

“Dart’s coalbed methane plans for Airth make it the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. This development is not wanted by the local community nor needed by Scotland. The only people who could benefit from this development are corporate shareholders.”

Next year the UK Department for Energy (DECC) will launch the tendering process for its 14th round of onshore licensing during which a number of areas in the  Central Belt may be put out to tender for oil and gas exploration.

Although Dart Energy, now under new management following a capital restructure last month, describes shale gas as a ‘game-changer’ in the US, coal-bed methane recovered from Airth will be sold at current UK open market prices. At today’s prices, the Airth reserves are estimated to be worth some £500 million.

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