Environmental campaigners in West Sussex are calling for changes to a draft policy for future oil and gas development because they say it fails to include measures to tackle climate change.
The draft mineral plan covers West Sussex and the South Downs National Park and will set policy for hydrocarbon developments until 2033. It will be used by the county council and National Park Authority when deciding planning applications for exploration and production sites. DrillOrDrop reported on the plan when a public consultation opened in April (see report here)
Friends of the Earth is urging its supporters to object by today’s deadline (Friday 17 June 2016). A campaign group from Balcombe, where Cuadrilla drilled for oil in 2013, has also recommended changes to the plan.
Friends of the Earth objections
Friends of the Earth (FoE) has objected to the plan because it:
- Fails to comply with the legal duty to contribute to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
- Supports the contribution of the supply of oil and gas ‘to support growth’
- Seeks to ‘minimise the risk’, rather than prevent or avoid risks to communities
- Fails to recognise the precautionary approach for unconventional hydrocarbons given that only one well has been test-fracked in the UK
FoE criticises as “not evidence-based” the assumption in the plan that oil and gas produced in West Sussex is part of a national commitment to maintain and enhance UK energy security. The organisation says energy security can also be achieved by energy efficiency.
FoE particularly objects to Policies M7a and M7b, which cover oil and gas developments without, and with, hydraulic fracturing. FoE says the policies fail to:
- Take account of the need to tackle the causes of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
- Recognise the risks or take account of cumulative or indirect impacts
- Take account of public health and the production of waste
- Set a distance from homes
- Ensure that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed.
- Protect the South Downs National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest as they allow development to go ahead in these places with minimal safeguards.
The No Fracking in Balcombe Society (NoFIBS) has also called for changes. It says the vision for the plan should take account of the UK’s obligations to meet the Paris climate change agreements.
“This document only mentions that mineral production should contribute to a low carbon economy and look to minimise carbon emissions.
“It should also cover the need to minimise emissions of methane as methane is known to be a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With climate change in mind no fossil fuel developments should be taking place as fossil fuels need to remain unburnt.
“Unconventional oil and gas extraction is particularly worrying because of the high levels of methane emissions associated with the process.”
The draft minerals plan aspires to source more minerals from alternatives to the extraction of indigenous resources. But NoFIBS calls on the document to signpost how West Sussex can encourage and develop planning applications for renewable energy production by using natural resources.
The group also questions the implication that oil and gas extraction is necessary for energy security. It asks:
“What is the problem with buying oil and gas from countries with which we have a stable relationship, as we do, while we develop our own renewables infrastructure? Food security should also be considered and whether minerals development may contaminate the land needed to produce food.”
NoFIBS also argues that the document should consider the public interest more widely.
“This means taking into account our environment, our health and well being, and the developing risk of climate change. It should consider pollution risks to air and water and how this can affect the health of humans and animals in the locality by looking to independent scientific study and taking independent scientific advice.”
Finally NoFIBS says protected areas, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, South Downs National Park, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Water Source Protection Areas, should receive the same protection from all types of oil and gas developments, not just fracking.
More details on objections from No Fracking in Balcombe Society
Other points of view
Please let us know if you have submitted comments on the draft waste and minerals plan for West Sussex and the South Downs
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