Moratorium called on fracking
Consultation will seek public’s views on unconventional oil and gas.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has today announced that there is to be a moratorium on granting consents for unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland whilst further research and a public consultation is carried out. The decision comes days after the UK Government voted against a moratorium.
Last Friday, following the publication of the Smith Command Paper, Mr Ewing wrote to UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey requesting that the UK Government do not issue further licences in Scotland as the powers over licencing are due to be devolved.
In his statement to Parliament Mr Ewing set out that the Scottish Government will undertake additional work to increase the evidence base for decision making on this issue.
In particular Mr Ewing set out that the Scottish Government will:
• Undertake a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction
• Commission a full public health impact assessment
• Conduct further work into strengthen planning guidance
• Look at further tightening of environmental regulation.
Mr Ewing said:
“I am announcing a moratorium on the granting of planning consents for all unconventional oil and gas developments, including fracking. This moratorium will continue until such time as the work I have set out to Parliament today, including a full public consultation, is completed.
“The Scottish Government has taken a cautious, considered and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas and fracking.
“I have listened carefully to concerns raised by local communities and environmental campaigners. We have put in place robust environmental regulation, tougher planning rules and successfully opposed the UK Government’s plans to end Scottish householders’ rights to object to drilling under their homes.
“We recognise that local communities are likely to bear the brunt of any unconventional oil and gas developments, particularly in terms of increased traffic and related emissions and noise impacts. These are issues that must be researched further.
“We have listened to legitimate concerns about potential negative impacts. However, we must also acknowledge that some take a different view and see opportunities in unconventional oil and gas extraction.
“We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities of new technologies – but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are never simply brushed aside. This government will not allow that to happen and I hope the actions I have announced today will be widely welcomed as proportionate and responsible.”
The Scottish Planning Policy relating to onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction states:
• Confirmation that the concept of buffer zones should be applied to all proposals for the first time;
• Putting in place an additional requirement for risk assessments to be prepared, using a source-pathway-receptor model, to ensure a transparent and evidence-based approach to assessing whether proposed buffer zones are acceptable;
• Making explicit that buffer zones will be assessed by the planning authority and statutory consultees, with a strong expectation that planning permission should be refused if they are unacceptable;
• Ensuring that operators are upfront about their plans and that communities are consulted on all unconventional gas developments, including close involvement in the risk assessment process;
• Requiring a fresh planning application (and public consultation) if permission was not sought for hydraulic fracturing but developers subsequently intend to undertake this process.
The independent Expert Scientific Panel published their report in July 2014 saying that more evidence is needed into the effects of unconventional extraction oil and gas.