Gloucestershire councillors are to call on the government to ban fracking in their county.
A meeting of the full council last week agreed to write to the government “requesting that the process of exploring hydraulic fracturing in Gloucestershire be halted”.
Twenty councillors voted in favour, none voted against and 26, including all the Conservatives, abstained.
The vote follows a recommendation by the council’s environment scrutiny committee and a motion, proposed by Cllr Barry Kirby (Labour). The motion noted that hydraulic fracturing added to climate change. It also noted the instability of geology in the Forest of Dean and what it said was a “significant risk” to the local environment from fracking.
The government’s 14th oil and gas licence round awarded five blocks in Gloucestershire last year (2015). They are mostly in the Forest of Dean and were all issued to South Western Energy Ltd. The blocks are: SO50a, SO51a, SO60a, SO60b and SO61. The Oil and Gas Authority said the target hydrocarbon for all the licences was coal bed methane.
South Western Energy is based in Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan, and run by Gerwyn Williams. He is a director of more than 30 companies, including Coastal Oil and Gas and UK Methane Ltd, which has interests in south Wales.
Gloucestershire’s vote against fracking adds to pressure on Wiltshire Council to do the same, according to the Western Daily Press this week.
Wiltshire Council meets in Trowbridge on Tuesday, (23rd February 2016) when it will receive a petition with more than 87,000 signatures. This calls on the council to:
- Agree an “urgent moratorium” on any form of unconventional oil or gas exploration in Wiltshire until there has been a complete local assessment of environmental impacts
- Oppose unconventional oil and gas exploration and extraction in Wiltshire because of the potential adverse effects on the natural environment, concerns about public health and impacts on legally-binding climate change targets.
- Consider fully the effects on water resources and contamination before any licences or planning permissions are granted.
Wiltshire is affected by four licenses issued under the 14th round: ST84, ST85, ST94 and ST95. These licences were also awarded to South Western and identified coal bed methane as the main target, although opponents of drilling have said there are no known CBM resources in the area.
Reaction to Gloucester vote
The campaign group, Frack Off Our Forest, described the Gloucestershire council vote as a “symbolic victory for people power”. But it added “we still have a way to go to get licences withdrawn.”
The group said other councils in the Forest of Dean had also agreed to write to the government in opposition to drilling for oil and gas. These include West Dean, Cinderford, Coleford, Ruspidge & Soudley, Awre, Forest of Dean District.
Text of motion by Cllr Kirby
“This Council believes that climate change is real and that it is a serious problem that affects our communities. We note fracking (hydraulic fracturing for shale gas) adds to climate change.”
“This Council further notes the recent protests against shale gas drilling outside Shire Hall.”
“This Council notes there are areas now available in Gloucestershire particularly the Forest of Dean for fracking. This Council also recognises the instability of the geology in the Forest of Dean.”
“Furthermore this Council acknowledges that the process poses a significant risk to the local environment due to the unknown and commercially hidden information about the extraction process.”
“This Council resolves to write to the Secretary of State to remove the licensing areas within Gloucestershire with immediate effect.”
- Link to webcast of the Gloucestershire County Council meeting, 17th February 2016
- Wilshire Council meets on Tuesday 23rd February at 10.30am at the Council Chamber, County Hall, Trowbridge BA14 8JN Details