Call to stop fracking plan for Firth of Forth

A protest against fracking at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Gareth Easton

A protest against fracking at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Gareth Easton

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Protesters are calling for the government to extend its ban on fracking to include an experimental method for extracting unconventional gas planned for the Firth of Forth.

Members of Our Forth are campaigning for underground coal gasification (UCG) to be included in a moratorium on planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rocks at high pressure to extract the gas within.

The moratorium was put in place in January to allow time for the government to launch a public consultation on the controversial drilling technique and commission a full public health impact assessment.

But communities around the Forth say UCG, a process that involves burning coal seams beneath the sea to extract gas for commercial use, should also come under the ban.

The campaigners have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to request a meeting on the subject and to present a petition with 8000 signatures supporting the move.

Recent revelations that an underground coal gas plant in Australia is facing prosecution by the Queensland government for allegedly contaminating more than 300sq km of land have reignited fears that the same could happen in Scotland.

Worried residents say ministers should protect them from living in a testing ground for extreme energy production after the area was earmarked by private companies as the first UK site for UCG.

Carah Johnson, from Portobello, said: “Communities do not want to be guinea pigs in a potentially hazardous experiment that has never been done beneath the seabed or this close to a major population centre.

“If this goes wrong, as it did in Australia, it could contaminate the whole of the Forth and surrounding population centres.”

The group has welcomed grassroots support from a new SNP campaign group, SNP Members Against Unconventional Gas (Smaug), which was formed earlier this week.

Callum MacLeod, from Our Forth, said: “These moves show the strength of feeling in the SNP grassroots, who want to ensure their party is determined in its opposition to fracking and unconventional gas.”

Smaug’s Catherine Shea said: “Oil companies rely on people not understanding what it is they plan to do. Together, Our Forth and Smaug are determined that our communities and our country do not sleepwalk into their hands.”

Campaigners will demonstrate their opposition to unconventional gas exploration ahead of the SNP conference next month by staging a protest involving linking hands across the Forth Road Bridge.

ilona.amos@jpress.co.uk