MSP seeks fresh assurances on Solway coal fires threat

Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the news that a controversial underground coal gasification (UCG) proposal is unlikely to go ahead in the Solway. The Buccleuch-backed company Five Quarter, which was behind the proposals, has gone out of business.

Ms McAlpine has, however, said she is concerned to hear that liquidators could sell on the licences, which are NOT devolved – they are issued by the UK Coal Authority.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The Scottish Government has a moratorium on UCG, but unfortunately it does not have power over the licenses which remain with the Coal Authority at UK level because they are offshore.

“I think the Coal Authority needs to give the people of the Solway coast assurances that they will not give any other firm permission to pursue this dirty and dangerous technology beneath the Solway sands.”

Ms McAlpine, who actively campaigned on the issue, previously obtained maps from the authority showing where UCG would happen in the Solway.

When she was challenged by Harry Bradbury, the chief executive of Five Quarter, Ms McAlpine got a UN expert to defend her assertions that the technology was untried and had led to prosecutions in Australia where it was piloted.

Bradbury caused outrage by comparing the technology to “key hole surgery” and denying that it involved igniting underground coal seams.

Ms McAlpine said:

“I was always very suspicious of Five Quarter’s inflated and misleading claims and the confrontational style of their management. We are very lucky that they are no longer a threat to this area – even the UK Tory government, which is hugely pro-fracking – does not seem to have been convinced by them at the end of the day.”

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