McAlpine welcomes offshore UCG moratorium

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed today’s announcement by the Scottish Government that a moratorium will be placed on offshore underground coal gasification (UCG) in Scotland.

The announcement comes as the Scottish Government outline the timetable for an “extensive” research and consultation process into the impacts of onshore unconventional oil and gas exploration.

Ms McAlpine has fought long and hard on behalf of constituents in Canonbie to stop Buccleuch from surrounding their scenic village with boreholes to extract coal bed methane. She said the safety of the technology is at best unproven and potentially very dangerous to public health. The same applies to UCG – which environmental groups have called ‘the most experimental and frightening method of unconventional gas extraction’.

Since discovering the Coal Authority had issued conditional licences for UCG in the Solway Firth Ms McAlpine has been very outspoken in her opposition to the practice.

Commenting, the SNP MSP said:

“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, my local constituents 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.

“This new moratorium on UCG, however, will only cover planning proposals, as exclusive rights to exploit coal resources for UCG will continue to rest with the UK Government. There is a strong case for the full devolution of licensing coal, including underground coal gasification, in line with the forthcoming devolution of licensing of onshore oil and gas."

She, added:

“The research and consultation timetable set out by the Scottish Government today shows that they are serious about conducting an extensive and thorough examination of the community, environmental and public health impacts.

“I know that this considered approach will be welcomed by communities and campaigners across Scotland, whatever their views on the issue – their voices will be heard.”

The Scottish Government announcement can be found here.

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