We need to educate ourselves about dangers of fracking, group warns

We need to educate ourselves about dangers of fracking, group warns by Rachel Mistear, November 20, 2012, WalesOnline
The public needs to prepare and educate itself in advance of planning applications for “extreme energy” technologies like fracking, a campaign group has warned. More than half of the population of Wales lives in areas that are already, or are likely to become, licensed for fracking – the controversial process where water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to release shale gas. Now members of campaign group the Free Range Network have organised a series of events around South Wales warning of the potential consequences. Environmental consultant and researcher Paul Hobbs, who is leading the events, said people need to be forewarned if they are to oppose developments in their areas.

“The Government in Westminster is pressing ahead with support for a new set of unconventional fossil fuel technologies in an attempt to boost the UK economy,” he said. “These technologies – shale gas, also known as fracking, coalbed methane and underground coal gasification – have a problematic safety record, and are known to risk serious environmental contamination as a result of their operation.” He said the process of underground coal gasification (UCG) was also problematic. “This involves setting fire to coal seams underground which, starved of oxygen, produces a range of flammable gases which are piped to the surface for use,” he said. “This is often described as the ‘nuclear option’ since it has the potential to create gross pollution of the environment.”

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Over a series of four public workshops around South Wales, the group hopes to show what ecological risks these technologies present and highlight flaws in the reasoning behind the UK Government’s support for them. Carmarthenshire-based campaigner Tim Shaw said the issue is likely to gain a lot of attention in South Wales, given the UK government has already allotted licences to energy companies to exploit natural resources in the area.
He said: “Licences cover an area which stretches from Swansea in the west to Cardiff in the east and there is a huge pressure from government to pursue this agenda. “What is worrying is that test drilling for these sites is not subject to usual planning processes. Local authorities are able to approve applications through delegated powers to officers.”

A number of companies want to use fracking to test for gas, including at a site in the Vale of Glamorgan. In July a decision to allow the 10-week drill at the Llandow Industrial Estate in the Vale of Glamorgan ended months of bitter argument between environmentalists and the company behind the scheme, Bridgend-based Coastal Oil and Gas. [Emphasis added]

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