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Welsh council rejects Coastal's shale drilling plan

Committee cites pollution and noise concerns as it turns down application

Coastal Oil & Gas’s application to drill for shale gas in the Vale of Glamorgan has been rejected by a local council in Wales, UK. The council voted unanimously to ban the Bridgend-based company from drilling at the Llandow Industrial Estate, south Wales.

Coastal’s application did not include plans to carry out hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Members of Bridgend council’s planning committee claimed that, despite no plans for fracking, there would still be a risk that shale drilling could pollute ground water and create unacceptable levels of noise. Coastal plans to appeal to the Welsh government against the decision. The company was not immediately available to comment.

Local opposition

The decision comes after months of protests against shale-gas extraction from local opposition groups. The Vale Said No (TVSN), which launched a campaign seven months ago to prevent drilling in the area, said it now intends to campaign for a moratorium on shale-gas extraction throughout Wales and the rest of the UK.

Louise Evans, who founded the group, told PEU she became concerned about the process when she discovered Coastal could drill near the caravan park she owns in Cowbridge. She said noise from drilling would have an adverse effect on her business. Then, having read local media reports about fracking, which claimed the process could contaminate drinking water and cause earthquakes, Evans formed TVSN to try to stop Coastal’s drilling plan.

Anti-drilling campaigners have some support from central government, too. Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, has expressed his dismay at Coastal’s drilling application and backed local campaign groups.

Regulatory framework

Evans said she is “not naive enough” to call for a complete ban on shale-gas extraction in the UK, but wants to see a moratorium on drilling until a robust regulatory framework is in place. She added that she believed that fracking's environmental impact had not, as yet, been subject to sufficient study. “The only positive things I’ve ever read about it [fracking] come from the gas industry,” Evans said. “I’ve not seen any positive research. Nothing yet that will change my mind.”

Evans’ fears, which she admitted are based on reading anti-fracking media coverage and from watching the film Gasland, reflect the growing need for operators to engage with and educate the public about the process.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s study into whether two tremors in Lancashire earlier this year were the result of fracking by Cuadrilla Resources has not yet been released. And there is no indication, yet, that it will prevent the company from developing the 200 trillion cf of shale gas it claims to have found in northern England.

Energy minister Chris Huhne has been cautious about developing the country’s shale-­gas resources. “We don’t yet know the full extent of shale gas here; how economically or environmentally viable it will be to extract; or by when. At best, it is years away,” he said.

Huhne, who was speaking at a renewable-energy conference in October, admitted shale gas “may be significant”, but that it would be only one part of the UK’s future energy mix. “Lashing our economy to a single energy source is a risky business,” he said.

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