A move by the Scottish Government to put a hold on underground coal gasification (UCG) has been welcomed by campaigners.
The ban joins the existing moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas, including hydraulic fracturing, announced earlier this year.
However, Scottish ministers Ministers have been clear that these are two separate technologies, subject to different licensing regimes, and will be considered separately. The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Campbell Gemmell, former CEO of SEPA, to lead an independent examination of the issues and evidence surrounding UCG. This will include working closely with communities and stakeholders to understand the issues of most concern to them.
Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, responded to the announcement: “Well done to Fergus Ewing for announcing this important new moratorium. Underground coal gasification is a risky and experimental technique, with a very chequered history around the world. This industry clearly deserves the same public scrutiny as shale gas fracking and coal bed methane.”
Angus MP Mike Weir commented: “This welcome announcement is an extension of the Scottish Government’s cautious, considered, evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas and contrasts sharply with the Tory UK government’s gung-ho approach to the issue.
“The existing moratorium on onshore fracking has been welcomed by environmental campaigners and industry representatives alike. It is right that we also have a moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification until we have fully considered the impacts of this technology and the views of the communities which will be most affected.”
Energy Minster Fergus Ewing commented: “Scotland’s moratorium into onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction was welcomed by both environmental campaigners and industry representatives. It will remain in place as the research and public consultation is undertaken.
“We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities for Scotland from new energy technologies – but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are all fully taken account of.”
This Sunday campaigners against fracking from across Scotland will link hands in a chain across the Forth Road Bridge as part of their protest against fracking.
Audrey Egan from Frack off Fife, described the decision on UCG as “wonderful new”.