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Experts see no evidence for alarm

Fracking reports reveal low level of risk

Paul Wheelhouse: consultation (Photo by Terry Murden)

Paul Wheelhouse: consultation

Initial research on the impact of fracking in Scotland has found no evidence that it would be damaging to the environment or public health.

Instead, the experts who were commissioned to investigate the industry found that it could attract £2.2 billion of direct expenditure in Scotland and a further £1.2bn of benefits for the supply chain. It would create up to 1,400 jobs at its peak.

The Scottish Government imposed a moratorium on ‘unconventional oil and gas’ in January 2015, preventing the development of any project involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’, or any coal bed methane extraction technologies.

In six papers commissioned by the Scottish Government, experts have concluded that:

  • the risk of leakage from abandoned wells is likely to be low
  • the overall emissions footprint is likely to be broadly similar to that of imported gas
  • additional vehicle movements associated with onshore oil and gas resources are unlikely to be significant or detectable at a regional or national scale
  • the risk of a damaging earthquake is low
  • there is inadequate evidence on whether development of shale oil and gas or coal bed methane would pose a risk to public health

    In general the authors expect the Scottish government to apply appropriate regulatory measures to ensure any risk was mitigated.

    The research will now be put out to public consultation which will launch in tandem with the consultation on the Scottish Government’s draft Energy Strategy and the, parallel, Climate Change Plan, being published in draft form in the early New Year.

    Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “These studies are an important contribution to the examination of the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas technologies, including ‘fracking’ and coal bed methane extraction, and underline the Scottish Government’s precautionary, robust and evidence-based approach to UOG.

    “In taking this approach we are mindful that those areas of Scotland across which it has been suggested industry wishes to deploy either ‘fracking’ or coal bed methane extraction are located across the Central Belt of Scotland: one of the most densely populated areas of the country. Those communities would be directly affected by any unconventional oil and gas development, and must be given genuine opportunities to explore and discuss the evidence in depth and at length.

    “This is a debate that has attracted strong views and much controversy and, unlike the gung-ho approach of UK Ministers, the Scottish Government’s consultation will give everyone who has an interest in this issue an opportunity to express their view. This is what the public and stakeholders expect, this is what we promised in our manifesto, and this is what we are delivering.

    “Once the consultation closes and the results have been independently analysed and published we will make our recommendation on the future of Unconventional Oil and Gas and allow Parliament to vote on it. After which, the Scottish Government will come to a considered judgment on the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.”

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