The first duty of any government is to protect its people. Our governments are instead putting the interests of multi-national corporate organisations ahead of citizens.
Proper cost-benefit analyses including the determination and analysis of risks should be mandatory. One major risk not being acknowledged by the Industry or investigated by our governments is Public Health. Concerns are being raised by health bodies in Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA. NHS Forth Valley – Scotland have stated – “The issue of unconventional gas extraction is a national issue and we would support a full public health impact assessment to progress the debate.”Debate however is the one thing this industry and seemingly our governments do not want. In Falkirk Dart Energy refused to attend open community council meetings. Communities have informed themselves and as a result both Falkirk and Stirling Councils, with a population of 240,000 residents, have refused a planning application for the first commercial production of any unconventional gas (UG) in the UK following a peer review of evidence made by AMEC and objections from 9 Falkirk Community Councils representing 70,000 residents, West Fife & Coastal Villages Community Councils Forum representing 18 coastal villages, with a population of 20,000, 33 local farmers, Network Rail and Cala Consortium.
Scientific evidence of harm exists despite industry and government denials. Ignorance cannot be used as an excuse in law but to challenge the industry in a court of law requires funding and resources which councils/community councils/residents simply do not have, a fact the industry will be relying upon going forward. Lack of essential baseline monitoring prevents companies from being held accountable in the future. The “robust regulatory” system our governments are relying upon to protect us does not exist even on paper- established when Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) were forced to attend the recent Dart Energy Public Inquiry held in Falkirk.
Claimed benefits: cheaper gas prices are denied even by Cuadrilla chairman Lord Browne. In the Forth Valley the inferior grade of gas means it is likely to be used as feedstock for the petrochemical Industry (INEOS) instead. Jobs – realistically a few thousand not the 10′s of thousands claimed – most of the of wells needed to exploit the gas will be unmanned. Against these, anticipated job losses in existing sustainable and currently healthy industries including – tourism, construction, farming, food & drink (inc Scotland’s Whisky, natural Spring water). Positive impact on communities- studies in America have shown house prices to fall in affected areas by 25%, many home owners unable to sell despite dropping prices. Home Insurance – Legal & General have stated they are unable to cover properties in areas affected by UG i.e. potentially over 60% of mainland Britain following the next round of PEDL licence sales this autumn. The future, once the gas fields are established, are of blighted local communities and economies – far too high a price to pay for the questionable short term gains of another fossil fuel industry.
Finally, climate change is a fact we cannot get away from and which requires drastic action now. UG is a fossil fuel, methane gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We should not be considering extracting this new source of fossil fuel which is already diverting investment away from renewable sustainable energy sources. The whole concept is wrong – period!
I sincerely hope the UG industry accepts the invitation to attend the last “We Need to Talk About Fracking” event on Monday 16th June in London, to enable right and proper debate.
Maria Montinaro : Falkirk Community Councillor & Concerned Communities of Falkirk member