SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has re-opened the party’s political fissure over fracking, vowing to ban onshore shale gas exploration if re-elected next month.
In the party’s manifesto for the Scottish parliament elections, Sturgeon has escalated her ‘frankly sceptical’ view on <safe> fracking to ‘deeply sceptical’.
Laying out her policy on the moratorium on unconventional oil and gas and underground coal gasification, shale-sceptic Sturgeon said:
“We are deeply sceptical about fracking and have ensured that no fracking can take place in Scotland by putting in place a moratorium.
“We have also put in place a very thorough research process and plans for a public consultation so that any decision is based on both evidence and public opinion.
“Unless it can be proven beyond any doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment, there will be no fracking or UCG extraction in Scotland.”
This will give m’learned friends a field day in judicial reviews and appeals; even in criminal cases, the level of legal proof is (only) ‘beyond reasonable doubt” and the standard level of proof in civil law cases is ‘on the balance of probabilities’.
Also, given the continuing-process nature of oil and gas exploration, there are day and daily health and safety incidents, ranging from a spilt cup of tea to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil pipe blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico.
As with aviation, or road transport, it is simply not possible to state that it can be proven ‘beyond doubt’ that there will never be risk to health, communities or the environment’ – therefore, this will be the legal lacuna through which the SNP will make permanent the fracking ban.
Meanwhile the now ‘deeply sceptical’ Sturgeon has also moved to further isolate erstwhile Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, who has maintained a proper professional and political stance of impartiality during the Scot-Govt. review and consultation of independent scientific evidence on the health and safety aspects of prospective onshore shale exploration in Scotland.
As exclusively revealed earlier this month by Scottish Energy News, Ewing’s neutral stance has effectively left him isolated and politically ‘outed’ over fracking by Sturgeon.
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire County Council will decide the planning application by Third Energy to frack a pre-existing well at Kirby Misperton on 20 May 2016.
Rasik Valand, Chief Executive, Third Energy said: “We look forward to the planning committee members’ visit to the operating well site in Kirby Misperton as they will have the opportunity to see the well site as it operates; understand the environmental protection measures already in place, and the high standards to which the site was built.
“The hydraulic fracturing and testing is a key step towards determining the viability of producing gas from this hybrid sandstone and shale formation in North Yorkshire.”