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.
More on Friends of the Earth objection to the plan
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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1) Onshore natural gas operations will reduce GHG emissions by supplanting coal. The idea that fugitive methane would somehow upend this argument has been shown to be false. See: http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/voices/energetics/natural-gas-methane-problem-overstated Also see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/05/02/why-were-still-so-incredibly-confused-about-methanes-role-in-global-warming/ Also see: http://energyindepth.org/national/noaa-study-bakken-methane-emissions-much-lower-than-previously-thought/
2) With 2mn wells fracked in North America and 200 fracked in the UK, FoE’s assertion the the precautionary approach has been violated by the plan is absurd in the extreme. We have a multitude of data demonstrating that fracking can be done safely, and that it can be a net benefit to the environment.
Bill – it doesn’t matter what is actually happening, FOE and Greenpeace have zero carbon agendas. They want us to go back to the stone age. Actually probably worse than that as fires are a no no. They do not offer a viable alternative to gas as a bridging fuel for the next 30 years or so. Current renewable technology will never provide more than 50% of our electricity on an annual basis and very little of our heating and transport needs. We all agree that consumption should be reduced but this will not avoid the high % of gas / nuclear we need for electricity and will not make much difference to transport consumption of hydrocarbons. Look at Denmark and Germany, they are maxing out renewables for electricity generation. But are still dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear to ensure a stable and on demand supply is readily available. Progress is being made with biomass for heating but the consensus is now looking like this is not so green after all and is almost as bad as coal. Planting corn to make biofuel is also turning out to be an ecological disaster.
Bill – no surname, obviously, as pro-frackers never like to give their full names – is again peddling disinformation in behalf of the fracking industry.
This does not seem the best time in human history to be starting a whole new fossil fuel industry in the UK – ie fracking – particularly given that all the recent relevant science shows that fracking is far worse than coal for the climate. Please read and share these articles.
[Edited by moderator to remove personal remark]
Chris – there is a surname to the comment above yours?
Well I post under my own name as does Paul (above) Michael Roberts, James Verdon, Lee Petts, and many others. Meanwhile who is Mar G? Flying dutchman, or a large number of other anti people.
Are you trying (and failing) to suggest that anyone who cannot see the problem with using a well sorted technology to extract gas is some form of immoral person in the pay of the companies? I am not, and notrdo I think are the others.
Chris, you can’t fight good science with bad, incomplete science.