Calling for a stop to fracking in Wales

Gareth Clubb says that the Welsh Government could implement a moratorium on fracking in Wales tomorrow.

Fracking is terrible news for climate change and the environment, and it’s not welcomed by communities. Even fracking companies admit it won’t lower fuel bills, and concentrating on renewable energy and energy efficiency will bring many, many more jobs to Wales.

Friends of the Earth Cymru has been calling for a moratorium on unconventional gas for 18 months. In fact, Saturday 5 July was our Wales Against Fracking Day, when street stalls across the country were inundated with people sending postcards to the First Minister, calling for a moratorium on fracking in Wales.

So I was surprised to hear the First Minister’s response to a question in the National Assembly last week. Llŷr Huws Gruffydd asked:

“… there are those who believe that the planning rights that we have, if the Government so wished, could possibly lead, more or less, to a moratorium in this area. Are you of the opinion that Wales has the necessary planning powers that would allow it, if it so chose, to put a moratorium on such developments?”

To which the First Minister replied:

“No. It is extremely important that we have a planning system in Wales that gives us the level of control that we should have over our resources. That is not the case at present and, of course, I have seen what the Silk commission has recommended on the way forward for the future”.

We’ve long supported full devolution of all energy consenting, permitting, licensing and planning powers to Wales, and are delighted the First Minister is pressing for greater powers over planning. But his answer suggests that a fracking moratorium is not currently within the National Assembly’s competence.

Yet planning for ‘mineral workings’ is specifically included in the devolution settlement under Schedule 7 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 – the Welsh Government has total control over minerals planning, and could implement a moratorium on fracking in Wales tomorrow.

It’s hardly surprising the Welsh Government might want to pass responsibility for fracking in Wales to Westminster, given how deeply unpopular it is even before rigs spring up all around the country.

It’s also perhaps not surprising there’s some confusion over responsibility, as although the UK Government licenses oil and gas exploitation, the Welsh Government could still halt any onshore rigs or exploration through their control of planning.

And no wonder there’s little understanding of the details – the current policy document, Minerals Planning Policy Wales, dedicates a meagre two paragraphs to onshore oil and gas. And even this was published back in December 2000, at least a decade before unconventional gas came onto the radar in Wales. It’s high time for change.

Polls show that hundreds of thousands of people in Wales oppose fracking, and already AMs from all parties support a moratorium. Thousands more people added their voice on Wales Against Fracking Day, anti-fracking festivals and events are springing up around the country, and October’s Global Frackdown Day is likely to highlight the issue early in the next Assembly term.

So the First Minister needs to clear up the confusion before the term finishes this week, and give us all hope that as far as fracking is concerned, there is something he can do to protect the interests of the people of Wales.

Gareth Clubb is Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru. Friends of the Earth Cymru is currently campaigning for a moratorium on unconventional gas exploration and exploitation in Wales

10 thoughts on “Calling for a stop to fracking in Wales

  1. I agree to a total ban on any & all fracking methods in the Wales & the UK. It’s the next generation in Wales who shall pay the full price economically & health wise for any exploratory introduction agreed upon by any Welsh Government.

  2. Interesting points. I’m no fan of fracking, especially when you consider what happens to the fluid afterwards. What is worrying however, is how lacking most of the political parties seem to be when it comes to any policy on fracking or energy in general.

    A quick look reveals that it is only the Lib Dems (of all people) who actually have a detailed policy!

  3. “Even fracking companies admit it won’t lower fuel bills, and concentrating on renewable energy and energy efficiency will bring many, many more jobs to Wales.”

    Friends of the earth quote Lord Browne of BP – a.k.a. Big Oil – in support of its anti progress agenda! Is this based on research? Not really – it’s based on the ‘Sun King’s’ highly qualified opinion presented without the qualification! But why go to all that trouble to engineer oil out of the ground when you can milk red-green EU subsidies for so-called renewables while the old and the poor can’t afford their energy bills? Doesn’t matter if a few thousand die of hypothermia does it? Not as long as Friends of the Earth, and its partners in crime, can keep on raking in their multi-million EUro subsidies from the EU to act as unelected unaccountable lobby groups in the NGO driven ‘government’ most people don’t even know they’ve got!

  4. ‘Stop the World I want to get off” seems to be the signature tune of Friends of the Earth CYMRU!!.Along with a)fracking,there comes b)nuclear power,c)GM foods,d)relief road,M4 around Newport that it doesn’t like at the present time. It is difficult to envisage how any development could get their support except for highly subsidized ‘green’ energy which is so expensive that ordinary people cannot afford the costs. If they succeed in stopping fracking for gas/oil in Wales what will be their position if it proceeds in England and massive economic benefits arise in terms of tax income for the Treasury in London?.I am no expert on these matters but listening to experts of radio 4 they thought that it was perfectly acceptable and safe to carry out,subject to proper environmental/safety rules. It seems that the whole of government is now subject to ‘single issue’ pressure and it is extremely difficult to get anything done to improve our economic strength,and in particular infrastructure projects. No doubt that if it was proposed to a)build railways through the VoG,b)build bridges over severn estuary,c)build M4,and lastly an airport in Rhoose there would be vociferous objections from Friends of the earth CYMRU!!.

  5. Let’s begin with an understanding of what moratorium means. It doesn’t mean a ban for all of eternity. It means that more time and research needs to be spent on gauging the long-term impact of this process. Considering the legacy bequeathed to us – social and economic as well as environmental – by fossil fuels, I would have thought this entirely sensible.

    There’s yet a further dimension here in South Wales, where fracking would (we are told) be concentrated. The ground under the region, from Monmouthshire to Carmarthenshire, is riddled with thousands of miles of disused mine roads, nearly all of them flooded, many of them unstable. Most Valleys communities have got used to the odd rumble in the earth – as unwelcome and troubling as they may be. But no one, to my knowledge, has satisfactorily explained what might happen if you introduce high pressure liquids into these old, uncared-for workings. It is a question that has to be answered before any fracking can go ahead in Wales.

  6. It is difficult to avoid asking about safety issues in the light of other countries’ experiences, in spite of the criticism of Friends of the Earth. One might also ask about the sheer number of planning applications and acceptances of exploratory drilling already under way throughout Britain.

  7. How ignorant this discussion is – on both sides. No-one quotes figures on actual and expected cost of different energy sources or attempts to guestimate the risks or social costs that don’t fall on the suppliers or purchasers of energy. Instead of all this rhetoric and emotion from messrs Clubb, Morgan and Walker, how about some facts? why doesn’t the Welsh government produce an energy policy, starting with a white paper giving present costs of different energy options and how these are expected to move in future on diffferent assumptions.

  8. Typically depressing article from Friends of the Earth Cymru – who in reality are no friends of modern Wales. We are clapped out economically, losing over 40,000 young people a year to England and beyond and in desperate need of investment and higher value jobs. So of course they oppose fracking and nuclear energy development in Wales. These people would have opposed the wheel as damaging native grasses. They definitely would have opposed mining and slate quarrying – the very foundations of Wales.

    Water UK and Public Health England have both recently reviewed fracking as safe for people and the environment. Neither they nor the UK government see any barrier to fracking in England. I have seen no compelling evidence from FoE (Cymru or otherwise) which undermines this judgement. That is because there is none. FoE has fallen prey to anti-development nimbyism pretending to be environmental concern.

    Wales needs fracking subject to modern environmental legislation and protection which would be highly stringent – and the economic uplift and supply chain impact I can have.

    Wales is finished if the Welsh Government allows ill-informed extremism to guide its energy and economic policy: and need to remember that Wales would probably have a population of less than a million today if FOE had been in charge of our energy and economic policy in 1800 !

  9. R. Tredwyn. Sorry to be ignorant,however I do not possess the information you require to meet such exalted standards. The Friends of the Earth CYMRU are a single issue pressure group that is obsessed about ‘global warming’,and its possible dramatic impact on life in future years.We,,however live in the current world which seems to be getting more dangerous and unstable as is evidenced in events in a) Middle East and b)Ukraine. I listened to Madeline Moon MP this morning and she stated that Europe needs to a)spend more on defence,,b) reduce imports of oil/gas from Russia as with Putin charge then we are at a disadvantage to that ‘unbalanced leader. The UK government has to balance all the needs of the country for the immediate future and quite rightly ‘fracking’ for oild and gas is a possibility open to use,subject to the provision of high standards of environmental/safety standards. Quite frankly if a few habitats have to be destroyed to provide is with our OWN energy supplies,then so be it as our whole standard of living and provision of public services rests on a competitive economy. There is already y oil/gas being taken from the ground at Wytch field,which is situated near Poole harbour in a very beautiful part of Dorset. The costs of developing energy are now left o private companies,owned by shareholders and presumably they wouldn’t be investing if there was money to be made from extraction of fossil fuels.The trouble with Wales is that WAG is subjected the local single issue pressure groups,that are effectively seeking to turn our economy backwards,whilst the rest of world marches on and on.

  10. I appeal to you, please imagine ‘scale up’. As once this has been started, wells exhaust quickly, next rural field is moved to, and so on. It will be the start of the industrialisation of rural Wales & the rest of the UK. Leaving behind proven to leak abandoned wells. Methane is 34 x more destructive to the atmosphere than carbon. It won’t bring energy prices down, the real profits won’t go to the effected communities, it won’t bridge the gap to renewables, it won’t replace coal. The profits will go to private hands, including many within our government that are driving this whole agenda, just like when we had energy security previously ‘the North Sea’.

    We need to believe that we can achieve energy security through renewables and energy efficiency. An entire state in Germany will be 100% powered by clean, renewable energy this year! Where there is political will there is a way. Please resist shale gas, community renewable energy schemes will bring down energy costs, reduce energy poverty, bring real employment, fund community development. The renewable industry including the big six energy providers could be in place efficiently. All you have to do is ensure that the immediate communities receive proportional funds from the generation, thus increasing up – take. If people feel solar & wind turbines are unsightly, just wait until they see fracking wells, flaring, holding tanks massive amounts of lorries, interconnecting gas pipes. Not to mention all of the hazards associated with drilling, fracking, gas transportation – leaks, water table pollution, explosions, huge amounts of radio active waste water to be treated, cleaned; the by product being a radio active sludge, often so radio active that even landfill won’t accept it. We currently only have two radio active waste water treatment plants in the UK. Fracking isn’t the only unconventional gas exploration being pushed, it’s also Coal Bed Methane and Underground Coal Gasification. Everywhere around the world where these technologies have been used, or have had experience of, there has been multitudes of issues, environmental & health damage. What revenue will rural Wales lose long term in regards to tourism. House price depletion, post environmental clean up, litigation?

    The US shale gas reserves after only 20yrs are massively depleted, leaving all the above as a legacy for future generations.

    Please again I implore you, imagine ‘scale up’ is this what you wish to start?

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