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As well as reporting on Blair
House opencast mine and the impact it may have on health, property and wildlife in the area, Minewatch is now keeping an eye on bids to extract underground gas unconventionally (i.e. fracking and underground coal gasification) that affect West Fife.

Personally, I am not persuaded that fracking is safe, or that frackers will be able to extract methane without significant harm to our environment. There is no question, however, that this is a complicated issue. The following article represents my personal views after Ineos came to Saline Community Centre on October 6th:

Ineos are keen to point out that several studies, including those commissioned by the Scottish & Westminster governments, conclude that ‘safety risks associated with fracking can be effectively managed provided that the industry is robustly regulated and monitored’. Even Ineos do not claim that fracking is risk free - so the question, in the words of Dirty Harry, is: ‘Do you feel lucky, punk’?

The oil industry freely admits that 60% of gas wells leak within 30 years (and this is confirmed by the United States Mineral Management Service). Ineos claim that tighter regulation in the UK will ensure that the disasters that happened in America could never happen here. David Cameron’s recent Infrastructure Bill, however, further undermines regulations that many consider were already inadequate. Environmental Impact Assessment is deeply flawed: meaning that potential environmental risks - including impacts on protected species and habitats - are not being properly identified and mitigated. Such regulation as we have is poorly monitored and enforced by planning authorities and regulators, leading to a culture of self-regulation by the frackers. This means we will not know if Ineos are even complying with basic standards until it’s too late.

There are many more instances of the oil & gas industry causing massive environmental disasters by cutting corners than I could ever list here - are we really going to take their word that they won’t do it again?

SNP MP, John McNally, has warned of the threat to Scotland’s food and drink industry, saying, “All it would take is one leak for people to shy away from buying water products and the crops we produce.” The Draft DEFRA Report (“Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts Paper” 1st July 2015) says, “Shale gas may transform a previously pristine and quiet natural region, bringing increased industrialisation. As a result, rural economy businesses that rely on clean air, land, water and/or a tranquil environment may suffer losses from this change, such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.” Unsurprisingly, the government did not publish the DEFRA report.

There are 450 anti-fracking groups nationwide. After a long struggle during which the police behaved like Cuadrilla’s personal army, assaulting protesters and bringing dozens of bogus prosecutions (all of which were thrown out of court), people in Lancashire managed to get two fracking applications denied. Worryingly, the government is already stepping in to overturn the court’s decisions in both of those cases. Given that the oil industry already has Westminster in its pocket, and will probably spend millions lobbying Holyrood, we must be prepared for a difficult struggle. Nick Thwaites of Ineos told me at the meeting last week that if there was suitable shale under Saline, we could expect a gas-treatment plant to be built just west of the village. Fracking is coming, unless we all stand in its way.

Ian Holmes-Lewis

Fife is being used as a guinea pig for controversial plans to ignite subsea coal seams

Many people are rightly concerned that this initiative, whilst certain to make money for the energy companies, is contrary to the policy of cutting carbon emissions. There are real concerns about the effects on (among other things) our water supply.

If you're not concerned about this, please watch the documentary,  'Centralia, "The town that was"' on YouTube. Also, please see,

Laws protecting California's aquifers have been described as 'draconian' and yet...
"After California state regulators shut down 11 fracking wastewater injection wells  over concerns that the wastewater might have contaminated aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation, the EPA ordered a report within 60 days.

It was revealed that the California State Water Resources Board has sent a letter to the EPA confirming that at least nine of those sites were in fact dumping wastewater contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants into aquifers protected by state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, reveals that nearly 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.

Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, says these chemicals could pose a serious risk to public health: “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

The full extent of the contamination is not yet known. Regulators at the State Water Resources Board said that as many as 19 other injection wells could have been contaminating protected aquifers, and the Central Valley Water Board has so far only tested 8 of the nearly 100 nearby water wells.

Worries over underground coal burning plans for Fife

According to a story in 'The Courier' ( )

"Fife is being used as a guinea pig for controversial plans to ignite subsea coal seams as a way to keep Britain’s lights on.

"That is the claim from people worried by the proposal amid revelations a planning application could be lodged within months to carry out the process on the Firth of Forth..."

Blair House:
Mines Restoration Limited has acquired the Blair House Opencast Site and is starting a “stakeholder engagement programme."

"...MRL will now meet with local authorities, landowners and community groups over the coming months to discuss and develop restoration plans for each of the seven sites. A wholly owned subsidiary of the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, MRL is an independent and charitable body established to facilitate the process of communities and other stakeholders in restoring open cast sites across Scotland..."

Fife Council planner James Wright was quoted by the Dunfermline Press; “Fife Council is pleased to see MRL taking an active interest in the restoration of the Blair House site and especially welcome the public consultation proposed. As planning authority the council is still in negotiations with the insurer of the site in relation to securing the restoration bond. We will actively work with MRL in the future to restore the Blair House site.”
Full article, by Gary Fitzpatrick, in the DP