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Communities join to oppose spectre of gasification

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Community groups and environmentalists want fracking moratorium extended

Community campaigners across Scotland have joined with environmental groups to oppose the spectre of “gasification” – a gas extraction process they believe is as bad as fracking.

They are calling on the Scottish Government to extend its recently-announced moratorium on fracking to include underground coal gasification (UCG) which produces gas from coal seams deep underground.

It comes as Cluff Natural Resources plans to build the UK's first deep offshore underground coal gasification (UGC) plant under the Firth of Forth.

Supporters of UCG argue that it is a way of providing cleaner energy, diversity of supply and energy security for the UK.

But the anti-fracking groups have written to energy minister Fergus Ewing calling for him to halt the UCG industry in its tracks.

The letter has been signed by organisations including Friends of the Earth, the Unisonunion and the Women's Environmental Network, as well as a number of community anti-fracking groups and academics.

Mary Church, head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Underground coal gasification is the most experimental and frightening method of unconventional gas extraction currently threatening Scottish communities.

“Not only have recent trials around the world gone badly wrong, but the likely climate impact of this inefficient technology is simply unacceptable. It makes no sense for a country with ambitious climate targets and the means to achieve them with renewables to flirt with such a risky form of energy production.”

The likely climate impact of this inefficient technology is simply unacceptable - Mary church

Communities threatened with Cluff's plans to ignite coal under the Forth are asking why hasn't the Scottish Government acted to protect them in the way that communities facing shale gas fracking and coal bed methane drilling are, said Church.

“The case to include underground coal gasification in the new moratorium and planned work on health and environmental impacts of unconventional gas is crystal clear, and the means of doing so totally within the power of the Scottish Government."

In response, the Scottish Government said its "careful, considered and evidence-based approach" had been underpinned by the recent moratorium announcement, which outlined its plans for a full public consultation and further research.

A spokesman said: "The moratorium is specifically about onshore unconventional oil and gas developments, including fracking - further to confirmation by the UK government that it would devolve onshore licensing powers for these types of development.

"Many of the relevant powers relating to underground coal gasification remain with Westminster and the licensing regime is not being devolved, though we will work with Sepa and all relevant regulators to ensure we have the appropriate controls and regulations to protect the environment.

"The Scottish Government will continue to take an evidence-based approach to the development of new energy technologies, which should give security and confidence to the people of Scotland that such resources would be developed in an environmentally safe and satisfactory way."