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Expert Witness : Environment

FoE campaigner calls for halt to shale gas fracking

Picture of an anti-fracking campaign poster for Your Expert Witness storyWith the European Gas Policy Forum 2012 addressing the issue of shale gas and its potential impact on both security of supply in Europe and on climate change, a leading campaigner against shale gas extraction has called for Europe to "slam the door shut on shale gas", drawing attention to three reports issued by the European Commission on the subject.

According to a release issued by the Commission: "The studies look at the potential effects of these fuels on energy markets, the potential climate impact of shale gas production, and the potential risks shale gas developments and associated hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') may present to human health and the environment."

Referring to one of them, Antoine Simon of Friends of the Earth Europe wrote in, published on 3 October: "A report published last month by the environment directorate general identified a number of high risks for health and the environment."

The EC release had this to say on the issue: "The study on environmental impacts shows that extracting shale gas generally imposes a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development. Risks of surface and ground water contamination, water resource depletion, air and noise emissions, land take, disturbance to biodiversity and impacts related to traffic are deemed to be high in the case of cumulative projects."

The other two reports – on energy market impact and climate impact – are less critical but not commendatory.

The EC release says of the energy market report: "Drawing on the US experience and reviewing potential EU resources, it suggests that under a best case scenario, future shale gas production in Europe could help the EU maintain energy import dependency at around 60%. But it also reveals sometimes considerable uncertainty about recoverable volumes, technological developments, public acceptance and access to land and markets."

Furthermore: "The study on climate impacts shows that shale gas produced in the EU causes more GHG emissions than conventional natural gas produced in the EU, but – if well managed – less than imported gas from outside the EU, be it via pipeline or by LNG due to the impacts on emissions from long-distance gas transport."

Antoine Simon is in no doubt about what needs to be done. He concluded: "The dangers of shale gas will have to be recognised and the brakes put on this high-risk, unnecessary technology. Our latest report recommends that Europe permanently closes its doors to unconventional and unwanted fossil fuels like shale gas, and embraces a low-carbon energy model, based on renewable energy and improved energy savings."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 October 2012 13:54

Climate change committee outlines concerns over gas statements

On 13 September the Committee on Climate Change, an independent committee of leading academic experts and peers, published a letter it has sent to Energy Secretary Ed Davey expressing concern over a recent statement on the continued use of gas as a primary energy source beyond 2030.

The letter, which is 'CC'd' to, among other Government leaders, the Chancellor George Osborne, states: "Extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity (ie without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)) in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets."

The letter goes on to say: "Unabated gas-fired generation could therefore not form the basis for Government policy, given the need under the Climate Change Act to set policies to meet carbon budgets and the 2050 target."

Last Updated on Friday, 14 September 2012 14:42


Water Bill raises more hackles than spirits

Picture for Expert Witness water storyIn July the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra) published the Draft Water Bill. Under the proposals, which have been published for pre-legislative scrutiny, all businesses and public sector bodies in England will be able to switch their water and sewerage suppliers, allowing them to obtain more competitive prices, improve their efficiency and tender for services better suited to meet their individual needs.

According to defra, evidence suggests that opening up the water market and allowing businesses to switch supplier could deliver benefits to the economy of £2bn over 30 years. In Scotland, after similar reforms were introduced, the public sector alone is set to save around £20m over the following three years.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 12:54


Protests as National Grid announces pylon route for Welsh windfarms

Nat GridNational Grid has announced the route corridor and substation site to connect proposed new windfarms in Mid Wales to the high-voltage electricity network in Shropshire. Cefn Coch in Powys has been identified as the preferred area for the substation and the 'red north' route via Llansantffraid to Lower Frankton in Shropshire as the preferred route corridor.

According to the announcement, on 31 July: "Listening to local views has played an important part in this decision. National Grid has consulted extensively with local people and specialist bodies, and has weighed up issues such as landscape, flooding, heritage, ecology, tourism and transport. The selection also takes into account the proposed connections from the windfarms to the new substation by ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and SSE Renewables (SSE)."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 11:12


Wildlife review gets underway

Picture of a forest for expert witness environment storyThis month sees the start of a periodic review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 by the UK's statutory nature conservation organisations. The review is carried out every five years and is known as the Quinquennial Review (QQR). It is carried out by a working group of the various agencies – Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage – led by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). This review is the 6th QQR.

The review decides whether any additions or amendments are justifiable to Schedules 5 and 8 of the WCA. Species may be added to the schedules if new evidence has come to light on their decline, and if protection is thought useful in conserving the species in question. Conversely, species can be removed if protection is no longer necessary.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 12:04