Campaigners set up a camp in South Wales today to promote renewable energy and raise awareness of local unconventional gas developments in the run-up to the Welsh Assembly elections in May.
The camp, established under the banner “Energise Wales”, is on the A48 near Llantrithyd in the Vale of Glamorgan.
There are five sites with planning permission for gas exploration in the area. They are (from north to south) at Llantrisant, Merthyr Mawr, Llantrithyd, Llandow and Dyffryn. All the planning permissions are held by the Bridged-based company, Coastal Oil and Gas.
A sister company, UK Methane, has permission for gas exploration at Penllergaer and Llangyfelach, near Swansea, and Foel Fynyddau Forest, at Pontrhydyfen, in the Afan Valley.
The campaigners are concerned that initial exploration will lead to applications to extract gas using fracking. The establishment of the camp comes a day after the Welsh Government extended its moratorium on fracking to underground coal gasification. Details.
One of the camp organisers, Donal Whelan, said:
“There has been active opposition to drilling in this area ever since plans first emerged in 2011. In the 5 years since then the company [Coastal Oil and Gas] has yet to drill any of its proposed sites. Local campaigners in the meantime are searching for, and finding, better energy solutions for Wales’ future.”
The site at Llantrithyd was recently sold to a villager opposed to drilling and the landowners at two other sites have withdrawn access rights.
Mr Whelan said one solution – called Re-energising Wales – was being run by the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) and Professor Gareth Wyn Jones of Bangor University. It proposes to convert Wales’ energy and transport systems to 100% renewable energy in 20 years. Mr Whelan said:
“The vision of Wales generating all of its energy domestically is a compelling one. We spend billions of pounds annually on energy in Wales. Imagine if a large part of that money stayed in the Welsh economy instead of flowing out to London, Norway, the US and the Middle East.”
“So now, as well as campaigning for a full ban on fracking in Wales, we are also calling on the Welsh Government to work with the IWA and Professor Wyn Jones to implement their visionary plans for Wales.”
The nearest exploration site to the camp is at Llantrithyd. People there have opposed Coastal Oil and Gas plans for drilling on the edge of their village.
Sian-Elin Jones, Chair of Llantrithyd Residents’ Association, said:
“The scientific evidence of the risks of fracking has been mounting during the years of our campaign. For example recent reporting of how much methane leaks from gas wells and their associated infrastructure in the USA suggests that fracked gas is on par with coal for greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Given the almost unanimous agreement at the Paris climate conference last December, it’s time we took our responsibilities to future generations seriously and implemented a swift transition to renewable energy.”
Frack Free Wales is supporting the campaigners in their calls for an early transition to renewable energy and a complete ban on fracking in Wales.
Its spokesperson, Keith Ross, said:
“In the run up to the Assembly Election in May, we will be reminding candidates of the current moratorium on fracking and underground coal gasification, and of the commitment to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Wales by 2050 laid down in the new Environment (Wales) Bill.”
“We will be seeking an assurance from all candidates that they will play an active role in maintaining the moratorium and ensuring that the next Welsh Government meets its targets for greenhouse gas emissions.”
The camp is due to stay in place until the Welsh Assembly election on 5th May 2016.