The UK’s first Public Inquiry into a planning application for commercial unconventional gas extraction is due to begin on March 18 in Falkirk.
More than 2,500 objections were made to Dart Energy’s plans at Airth – which would be the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. The Inquiry is scheduled to run for three consecutive weeks.
The Reporter has agreed that the Inquiry will examine complex technical ground including potential public health and climate change impacts of the development. Its findings could set a precedent for unconventional gas plans around the UK.
Unlike shale gas, coal-bed methane extraction does not always involve fracking. Instead, coal seams are de-pressurised by pumping out large volumes of water. But when the gas flow starts to decline after a few years, wells are often fracked to increase productivity.
Friends of the Earth Scotland will be leading two expert witnesses at the Inquiry. Dr John Broderick of the Tyndall Centre will give evidence on the climate change implications of going after a new source of fossil fuels, and Prof Christopher Hilson of Reading University will give evidence on the regulatory framework surrounding the industry.
A number of areas in Scotland are already under licence for onshore unconventional gas development.
In December 2013, the UK Government published a map of areas, including a number of areas in Scotland that could be licensed for future shale gas and coal-bed methane extraction.
Both Falkirk and Stirling Council’s Planning Committees voted to oppose Dart Energy’s plans in December 2013.
Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government has clearly stated that Scotland does not need unconventional gas to meet our energy needs, and the local community has made it resoundingly clear that they do not want this industry on their doorstep”.