by Rebecca Falcon Feb 11th, 2014
Dirty energy company, Dart Energy, is preparing to get the green light for a dangerous new way to extract fossil fuels. They want planning permission to turn Falkirk in the heart of Scotland into a commercial ‘coalbed methane field’.
If they get the go-ahead in Falkirk, fracking is one step closer to becoming a commercial reality – and the decision is likely to set a precedent for the rest of the UK. But, if we win, it will be a landmark case in the fight against dirty energy.
But the local community have fought back. They’ve fought for a pause in the planning application, and they’ve now secured a public inquiry at which the plans will be put on trial, set to begin in early March. If they win, Dart Energy’s planning application will be thrown out and it could stop their dirty gas field for good.
The whole community has rallied together and has raised just over £15,000 from small donations of just a few pounds to fund their legal case. But they’re up against an opponent and an industry with bottomless pockets and the best legal support money can buy. Their £15,000 just won’t be enough to build the strongest legal case needed to win.
They need £50,000 in total to be able to present the strongest case involving the best experts. A case strong enough to win. The public inquiry is only a few weeks away – which means the money is needed right now.
Jamie Mackenzie Hamilton from the local campaign group said:
“It’s a real David and Goliath situation. We are in a very strong position right now, and if we can put forward the best possible case, then there’s a genuine likelihood we can win this. If we can’t afford the representation we really don’t stand a chance. Our legal team is working round the clock at rock-bottom rates – it would normally cost much more than this. A lot is at stake for us and the whole of the UK”.
This isn’t just about protecting Falkirk. It’s about more than that. If dirty energy wins it is a disaster for our climate and our clean energy future. But, if the local campaigners are successful it would make it harder for other companies to extract dirty gas from across the UK. And the arguments that are raised in the inquiry can be raised in similar fights all over the UK.
38 Degrees have got a strong track record with David and Goliath court cases. Last year 38 Degrees members chipped in to take Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to court to save Lewisham Hospital – twice, and we won. And over the last few months 38 Degrees members’ donations have been funnelled into desperately needed local community campaigns; from Somerset to Yorkshire fighting fracking and dirty energy companies on the ground.
Can you chip in just £2 to stand with the local community in Falkirk against dirty energy? The 38 Degrees office team will process the payment safely and send it straight to the local community who needs it. Click the secure link here.
Here’s a little bit more information from the policy experts at Friends of the Earth Scotland, they’ve been working with the local campaigners in Falkirk throughout this campaign.
What is coalbed methane?
Coalbed methane is a form of gas trapped inside coal seams. It’s one of a number of sources of ‘unconventional gas’ that the energy industry are turning to as conventional fossil fuels run out. There is a growing body of evidence from the USA and Australia, where the industry is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane extraction.
What’s it’s relation to fracking?
Unlike shale gas, coalbed methane extraction doesn’t always involve fracking – at least not in the early years of a development. Instead, coal seams are de-pressurised by pumping out large volumes of water. But as gas flow starts to decline after a few years, wells are often fracked to increase productivity. In Australia the industry estimates that up to 40% of coalbed methane wells end up being fracked.
However, there are serious environmental problems associated with coalbed methane extraction regardless of whether fracking takes place.
Why is it so bad:
The chemicals used in drilling muds can be just as toxic as those used in fracking fluids, and the same risks of spillages, leakages and mobilisation of naturally occurring chemicals and radioactive substances apply. Communities in Australia are already suffering from symptoms associated with exposure to these chemicals, and a growing body of research points to devastating longer term impacts such as birth defects and cancers.
In fact, because coalbed methane is significantly shallower than shale rock certain risks, such as groundwater contamination, are increased, and fracking simply exacerbates these impacts.
Even if it was safe to extract this gas (and it is increasingly clear that it isn’t), if we want to prevent the worst impacts of climate change it isn’t safe to burn it. Investing in unconventional gas now will lock us into dangerously high greenhouse gas emissions and make it extremely difficult to meet our legally binding carbon reduction targets in 2050.
PS Concerned Communities of Falkirk (CCoF) was formed during 2013 in response to Dart Energy’s planning application to extract coal bed methane in the Falkirk area. On 4 December 2013 CCoF adopted a constitution as an unincorporated voluntary association with a committee of office-holders and other volunteers. Details of the office bearers are given below:
Chairperson: Vivien Murchison,
Secretary: Jamie Mackenzie Hamilton
Treasurer: Fiona Williams
The Constitution can be viewed here.