Fracking Week in Parliament 1
The Scottish Government has been urged to stop exploration for shale gas by Ineos in an area between Glasgow and Falkirk.
The company holds the rights to explore for gas in the area with its partner Reach Coal Seam Gas.
Under the conditions of the licence, they must either drill a well during the initial exploration term or give up the licence.
The initial term expires in six weeks on 30 June 2018. At this point, the initial term could be extended or the licence closed.
In the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Labour’s Environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, called on the government to refuse to extend the licence.
She asked the Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse:
“Will the minister seek to ensure that the initial term of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence 162, which is owned by Ineos and Reach Coal Seam Gas Ltd and covers 400km2 in the Scottish central belt, will not be extended, and that the licence will cease to exist on 30 June this year?”
Mr Wheelhouse confirmed that since February this year, the Scottish Government had powers under the Scotland Act 2016 to grant, extend or refuse changes to PEDL licences.
But he said he did not want to pre-judge any application by Ineos and Reach.
“The integrity of the planning system is very important, and we have only just received the powers in question. Any requests for extensions to a licence will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in the light of the policies that are in place at the time.”
Ineos and Reach Coal Seam Gas challenged the Scottish Government in the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh last week over the legality of the instruction to local authorities not to approve planning applications for fracking.
Announcing the policy in October 2017, the Scottish Government said that its preferred position was not to support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.
A strategic environmental assessment of the position is now underway into the decision. Responding to a question by the SNP’s Angus MacDonald, Mr Wheelhouse said the assessment was expected to conclude in the summer. He added:
“We would undertake any other statutory requirements in reaching our preferred position, and that is all that I can say at this stage.”