Regulation

Councillors back mine methane scheme near historic parkland by slim margin

190423 NCC Rufford Abbey vote

Nottinghamshire County Councillors voting for Infinis’s scheme to extract mine methane near Rufford Abbey, 23 April 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Plans to extract methane from a disused colliery near Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire were approved this lunchtime by two votes.

Seven councillors on the county’s planning committee voted for the scheme but five members abstained.

jim-creamerOne of the abstentions was committee vice chairman, Jim Creamer (left).

He said there were no planning reasons to oppose the scheme and he did not object to the technique for extracting the methane.

But he said:

“I do not think it right in this site. I cannot vote for it and I cannot vote against it.”

The committee heard that the Northampton-based company, Infinis, was seeking permission to drill a 390m borehole about 190m from Rufford Abbey, a grade 2 registered park and garden and local wildlife site.

The gas would be used to generate electricity for the grid. If the scheme proved successful, it would be operated remotely for 25 years with no on-site staff, the committee was told.

Council officers had supported the application. Specialists consulted by the council had said the cumulative impact of developments near the Rufford estate was beginning to “erode the character of the area”.

Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, told the committee:

“The impacts are recognised but they are balanced by the benefits of the scheme.”

He said there was “strong policy support” from national government for using mine methane where it could leak into the atmosphere. Where the gas wasn’t leaking, developments were justified by the generation of electricity, he said.

190423 Rufford Hills artists impression

Artists impression off Rufford Hills mine methane scheme, submitted as part of planning application to Nottinghamshire County Council

Rufford Parish Council had objected to the proposal on the grounds that the proposed 750m stone access track was unnecessary because there were two existing alternatives. Two members of the public had also opposed the scheme, the committee was told.

Neil Baker, a consultant for Infinis, said the site would generate minimal vehicle movements and any harm to the environment could be mitigated. He said he was proud of the way Infinis and its predecessor company, Alkane Energy, had operated eight other sites in Nottinghamshire.

He said the companies had been looking for a suitable site to access Ollerton colliery since 2014:

“Should planning permission be granted the electricity generated will help secure the future of the company”.

Two sections of hedgerow, which the original application proposed to remove, have been retained in a revision following negotiations between the council and the company.

The planners agreed with Rufford Parish Council that the land should be restored to farmland after 25 years, rather than planted with trees, as proposed by the county council’s ecologist.

Background to the application

Reporting at this planning committee meeting was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers

13 replies »

  1. This is insanity. The last IPCC report issued in October 2018 indicated that if we don’t dramatically reduce GHG emmision in the next 12 years we are heading for 3 degrees warming which would threaten all life on Earth. Methane is the most potent GHG and even if there are no fugitive methane leaks the CO2 emissions generated over 25 years will impact on carbon budgets. Do those councillors who made the decision really understand the climate science and the grave implications of their decision for future generations?

    • Whilst I don’t know the particular location, coal mine methane has a habit of exploding or seeping out into the atmosphere. Bearing in mind the IPCC report, no one would want methane to escape into the atmosphere. Therefore it is better to capture it and use it to produce electricity. True, the carbon dioxide produced is a greenhouse gas but much less potent than the methane.
      I would rather capture methane that may well escape anyway than get shale gas that would otherwise never escape – because shale rock is not porous.

    • Diana Wallace

      I am sure the councillors understand the science. Their problem is formulating actions to reduce fossil fuel use, actions within their remit as a council.

      https://www.edie.net/news/6/Nottingham-unveils-bid-to-become-the-UK-s-first-carbon-neutral-city/

      While Nottingham City Council is working away at various schemes, the county council has struggled to keep up.

      Cutting the parking ( or charging eye watering parking charges / free for electric cars ) at Centre Parks, the Major Oak, Rufford Abbey, Clumber Park and other tourist areas in order to encourage car sharing or using the sparse public transport is not supported yet. Maybe canning HS2 ( building a railway where one exists ) could help fund the Shirebrook to Ollerton branch of the Notts…Worksop line.

      Tough decisions ahead in order to change people’s behaviours in terms of fossil fuel use.

    • Might mean we import a little less fossil fuel from other countries Diana, as current, and reduce global emissions as a result. As the UN report stated, we should all look at taking steps that may be small in themselves, but globally make a difference.

  2. “Should planning permission be granted the electricity generated will help secure the future of the company”.

    Says it all. Profit before life. The neo-liberal mantra that is going to be the death of us all if we don’t change attitudes rapidly.

  3. Well, Mark, if you receive your electricity free and do not pay anyone to make a profit supplying it-THEN YOU DEFINITELY ARE NOT USING ALTERNATIVE SOURCES EITHER!!

    How was this a slim margin? No one voted against! And only two members of the public objected. Looks closer to a landslide to me. (I don’t believe abstentions are the same as against.)

  4. Abstaining is the last refuge of the scoundrel. If you’re not in favour of it, you should be against it. These councillors are a disgrace and should resign immediately. Utterly pathetic.

    • Just to note
      The development ( or where it shows on the map ) is about 1km from the ruins of Rufford Abbey as the crow flies and some 450m from the Eastern most fenceline of the Park ( close to the Northern shopping outlet and cafe ). It is some 190m from Rufford Park Golf and Country Club, which sits between the development and Rufford Abbey Park. So golfers will get a better view of the development that the tourists visiting the Abbey and grounds.
      The development is 2.4km from Centre Parks ( boundary ).

    • Really, Ellie? There are many things I am not in favour of but feel I do not have enough knowledge of the subject to be against.

      But interesting that the antis are so in need of exciting that this is portrayed as a close decision.

      Good job that this methane is going to be tapped for electricity, and not allowed to seep up through the golf course, otherwise could be big problems at the 19th!

  5. Well its been an interesting couple of days, the peaceful Easter Bank Holiday gathering of the Extinction Rebellion movement where thousands have expressed what a peoples protest really means to Theresa Mays government, It was Earth Day on Easter Monday and over 100 protesters lay down in the Natural History Museum beneath the great blue whale skeleton to indicate the results of climate change and species extinction.

    Greta Thunberg and many others have addressed the gathering at the Extinction Rebellion protests in London and a debate attended by Greta was held by the Guardian. Greta has also spoken to MP’s in Westminster, where an empty chair was left for Theresa May who subsequently claimed she had “not been invited”. Also absent (or not invited?) were Claire Perry, Natasha Engel, Boris Johnson and many others.

    Apparently “not being invited” is endemic in Westminster. The extreme opposite of endemism is however cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, perhaps the endemic inhabitants of the Westminster environment are precinctive rather than of a cosmopolitan distribution, unlike Extinction Rebellion who are indeed of a cosmopolitan distribution, not only in London, but countrywide and worldwide….

    https://www.desmog.co.uk/2019/04/17/comment-climate-science-deniers-are-threatened-extinction-rebellion-because-they-are-challenging-ideology-which-their

    Enjoy!

    Enjoy!

    Have a nice day.

  6. Apparently Theresa May had been invited but “ignored the request to attend”, this report also has Greta’s address to the MP’S at Westminster at the bottom of the report.

    “According to The Guardian, Theresa May’s spokesman said that Downing Street ‘did not have information about whether the prime minister had been invited to see Thunberg.”
    “However, organisers of the event stated that the Prime Minister had been formally invited, but had ignored the request for her to attend”

    https://evolvepolitics.com/theresa-may-shuns-environmental-activist-greta-thunberg-at-specially-arranged-meeting-of-uk-party-leaders/

    This is the complete text of Greta’s address to the MP’s that attended here:

    “My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.
    I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

    Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

    In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.

    I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.
    Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.

    You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.

    Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?

    Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is unless in that time, permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place, including a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

    And please note that these calculations are depending on inventions that have not yet been invented at scale, inventions that are supposed to clear the atmosphere of astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide.

    Furthermore, these calculations do not include unforeseen tipping points and feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost.

    Nor do these scientific calculations include already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Nor the aspect of equity – or climate justice – clearly stated throughout the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.
    We must also bear in mind that these are just calculations. Estimations. That means that these “points of no return” may occur a bit sooner or later than 2030. No one can know for sure. We can, however, be certain that they will occur approximately in these timeframes, because these calculations are not opinions or wild guesses.

    These projections are backed up by scientific facts, concluded by all nations through the IPCC. Nearly every single major national scientific body around the world unreservedly supports the work and findings of the IPCC.

    Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

    During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising.

    When I have been travelling around to speak in different countries, I am always offered help to write about the specific climate policies in specific countries. But that is not really necessary. Because the basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.
    The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting.

    Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester.

    And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.

    But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

    The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.

    This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.
    People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.

    Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve? We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases. We should no longer only ask: “Have we got enough money to go through with this?” but also: “Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?” That should and must become the centre of our new currency.

    Many people say that we don’t have any solutions to the climate crisis. And they are right. Because how could we? How do you “solve” the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced? How do you “solve” a war? How do you “solve” going to the moon for the first time? How do you “solve” inventing new inventions?

    The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.

    “So, exactly how do we solve that?” you ask us – the schoolchildren striking for the climate.

    And we say: “No one knows for sure. But we have to stop burning fossil fuels and restore nature and many other things that we may not have quite figured out yet.”

    Then you say: “That’s not an answer!”

    So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”

    “That’s still not an answer,” you say.

    Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.

    We say that all those solutions needed are not known to anyone and therefore we must unite behind the science and find them together along the way. But you do not listen to that. Because those answers are for solving a crisis that most of you don’t even fully understand. Or don’t want to understand.

    You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.

    Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.

    Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.

    We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

    We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.

    I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me.”

  7. Surely it’s better to use this low carbon gas which is just lying there, a byproduct of the coal industry rather than import gas with a higher carbon footprint in the form of frozen LNG.

  8. I think Shirley understands that, Shalewatcher, but whilst “evidence based journalism” has a problem with 7 to zero being a “close margin”, a minority will not.

    Oh, if only my football team could win by a close margin of 7-0 each week! I would then ignore the 5 missed opportunities to score.

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