Fracking also has significant local ecological risks, including potential contamination of local groundwater, earthquakes, and noise and disruption.
There is currently a planning application in place for coal bed methane exploration drilling in Keynsham, by a company which wants to go into full production south of Keynsham and in the Mendips. If the exploration takes place, and leads to full scale production, there could be 2,100 wells across Somerset, as not much gas can be extracted from each well.
The directors of the Bristol Energy Cooperative are thinking of submitting a planning objection to this application. We believe that fracking goes directly against the aims of the cooperative, and that alongside our work to create a positive alternative to the exploitation of more and more fossil fuels, we must work with others to resist attempts to do so. Before we do so, we'd like to hear your views as members, and so hope to see some discussion in the comments on this blog post. The draft planning objection text is below.
If you feel moved to write an objection (and this is the point in time when your voice can have an impact), there is very good information on the frackfreesomerset website. http://www.frackfreesomerset.org/what-you-can-do/keynsham-action-alert/planningobjections/
The deadline for planning objections is the 26th November, so you would need to submit your comments before then.
Draft planning objection from the Bristol Energy Cooperative
The Bristol Energy Cooperative, as an organisation committed to clean, ecologically safe, and socially fair energy provision to all, strongly objects to the application for planning permission from UK Methane Limited for test drilling for Coal Bed Methane at Durley Hill near Keynsham. We are a local community cooperative social enterprise with 157 members, serving the wider Bristol area, including the Keynsham area.
We object to the planning application on a number of grounds:
Immediate local disruption
- The drilling rigs would be unsightly. An ICM poll found that more than two-thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine than a shale gas well near their home.
- The drilling rig proposed is near residential properties (the nearest only 285m away), and will be operating 24hrs/day, 7 days/week. This will cause both significant noise pollution and disruption, and light pollution as the site will be lit at night. Para C3.96 of the Local Plan states that: “Within rural areas and open countryside external lighting can be extremely prominent and visible for some distance…proposals for external lighting in the countryside are therefore not generally acceptable.”
Local environmental risk from this planning application
- Even one test drilling rig has a risk of leakage and groundwater contamination. Coal Bed Methane has been linked to water contamination in Australia and the US where the technology is widely developed.
- The site is currently greenfield, and is also in green belt land in the Forest of Avon. Para C1.3 of the Local Plan states that a purpose of the Green Belt is: “to retain land in agricultural, forestry and related uses”.
- There is a risk of groundwater contamination of the hot springs in Bath, which have been used by people since long before Roman times, and are of world heritage value. They also bring significant tourism income to Bath, which would not be balanced by the small economic potential of shale gas methane in terms of jobs in the area.
- Coal Bed Methane will not provide jobs in the local area. Jobs created will be short term, and are likely not to go to local people as many will require specialised technical expertise more readily available elsewhere. UK Methane estimate that each well would provide 10-15 short term jobs.
Investment in Coal Bed Methnane detracts investment from cleaner technologies with a greater local economic benefit
- Investing in shale gas development detracts money from being invested in renewable, long lasting, green sources of energy such as wind and solar and tidal power.
- The mendips have good potential for wind power, which is safe for the local environment and the global climate, can be owned by the local community, and bring jobs to local people for the longer term. This would have no risk for the local water table and ecology.
The application poses a risk for climate change
- The application could lead to full scale coal bed methane production. This would be completely unacceptable because very large numbers of wells need to be drilled to extract Coal Bed Methane, as each well does not yield much gas. In Queensland, Australia, over 3,000 wells have been drilled with projections of 40,000 to come. If CBM goes into full production here, there could be 2,100 wells across Somerset. This would pose a risk to the local groundwater, including the hot springs in Bath, which are a great attraction of tourists to the area, in the middle of a World Heritage Site. The impact on the economy, people and the environment from this could be extremely severe.
- Coal Bed Methane extraction could lead to runaway climate change. It is very carbon intensive, and has the additional problem that the methane extracted is a stronger greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide emitted by burning it. Para E.5 of the Local Plan, in relation to environmental assets, states that an aim of the council is to: “conserve and reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources, including…fossil fuels.”
It would be irresponsible of the council to accept this planning application, given the potential global and long term consequences, as well as the local and immediate consequences. Rejecting this planning application would protect local people, the local economy, and support the movement towards a low carbon economy in B&NES and the West of England.
Bristol Energy Cooperative