The public inquiry into Dart Energy’s plans to extract coal-bed methane from up to 22 wells around Airth has opened in Stirlingshire.
The inquiry, which is expected to last three weeks, was deemed necessary by the Reporter appointed by the Scottish Government after Dart Energy appealed to it on the grounds of non-decision, despite several extensions to the statutory deadlines, by Falkirk and Stirling District Councils over its Planning Application first lodged in 2012.
The proposed development includes the drilling of 22 wells, development of Inter-Site Connection Services, site access tracks, a Gas Delivery and Water Treatment Facility, ancillary facilities, infrastructure and associated water outfall point. Over the 20-25 year life of the development, the expected gas recovered will amount to 0.02% of the annual UK gas consumption.
But Mark Ruskell, a former Holyrood MP and now Green Party councillor on Stirling council, said yesterday after Friends of the Earth Scotland organised a protest at the inquiry;
“You cannot overestimate the importance of this inquiry. It will effectively decide whether the entire dirty gas industry has a future in the UK or not.
“It’s been left to communities to defend our local and global environment while government has fiddled around with half-baked policy.
“Nothing short of a moratorium on these developments until key concerns can be resolved will do.”
Dart Energy said if its plans are approved, gas will be delivered into the national grid and the water will be treated to standards agreed with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and discharged to the Firth of Forth under licence.
Dart Energy manager Douglas Bain said: “We will seek through the public inquiry to address and allay with scientific rigour the concerns of the communities and at the same time correct the many myths surrounding the production of coal bed methane.”
The Inquiry is currently scheduled to run for three consecutive weeks, as scheduled below.
Week 1 (Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk)
19-20 MAR: Geology, radioactivity, Hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water
21 MAR: Noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts
Week 2 (Falkirk Stadium)
24 MAR: Video evidence on geology, radioactivity, hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water, noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts
25 MAR: Impacts on the community
26 MAR: Noise impacts, air quality, potential health (am); National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (pm)
27 MAR: National and local policy, benefits of the proposal
28 MAR: National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (am); Roads and traffic, habitats and ecology (pm)
Week 3 (Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk)
31 MAR: Relationship to other permissions and consents, Restrictions on planning permission, Timescale of the development, Regulatory guidance, Monitoring arrangements
1 APR: Landscape and visual impacts, Conditions, legal agreements
2 APR: Conditions, legal agreements, Overspill and potential accompanied site inspection
3 APR: Overspill & potential accompanied site inspection
Dates for oral closing statements to be confirmed.