Misquoted – again!

Reporter, Rachel Moses-Lloyd, seriously misquotes me in her article ‘Divide over plans to tap into gases” (South Wales Evening Post, Tuesday 12 August). 

I did not say, “They are not likely to be fracking in Wales, because that’s what they do for shale gas, and South Wales hasn’t got any”. 

What I did say was that there isn’t much shale in South Wales, so extraction of Coal Bed Methane is likely to have more of an impact in this area.  I also pointed out that Coal Bed Methane extraction could involve fracking in certain circumstances. 

The presence of shale in South Wales is borne out by the fact that companies are now applying for permission to test drill in order to ascertain where the shale is and how much gas it might contain.  This is certainly the case at Pontrhydyfen in the Afan Valley, where UK Methane has recently applied to extend the depth of their drilling in Foel Fynyddau Forest in order to explore for shale. 

But even if they don’t find suitable shale beds, and even if they can extract the Coal Bed Methane without using fracking, we would still be presented with significant industrialisation of the countryside bringing with it the risks of water pollution, air pollution and hundreds of extra vehicle movements creating noise, dust and damage in rural areas. 

If Councillor Ioan Richard is so intent on reducing our reliance on imported gas, then he should be supporting the development of renewable energy rather than unconventional gas, which will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales. 

Fracking Subsidies!

Byron Davies AM calls for an end to public subsidies for onshore wind farms and uses Welsh Government support for wind farms as a stick with which to beat the Labour Government in Cardiff. (‘Byron Davies AM calls for change over turbines’, South Wales Evening Post, 26 April)

His claim that “Conservatives in government want to protect the natural environment and are committed to giving local people a say …” might hold good for wind farms, but goes straight out of the window when it comes to Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane development.

Not only are Mr Davies’ Conservative colleagues at Westminster gleefully offering tax breaks and other incentives to Shale Gas developers, they are now planning to change the law so that companies can frack below our houses without needing to get our permission or even inform us.

Perhaps Mr Davies can explain how cutting subsidies for renewables at the same time as offering subsidies for fracking is going to help Welsh Conservatives honour their 2011 Manifesto Commitments to, “Tackle Climate Change”, “Generate More Renewable Energy” and “Protect the Environment”?

Fracking will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales than any wind farm ever could.

Wind Farm (colour)fracking shale gas analysisVS

 

 

 

 

 

Sun, sea and wind are there to be used

Like Dave Lees (‘Gas is there to be used’, South Wales Evening Post, 7 April) I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see yet another climate change sceptic accusing greens of scaremongering when there is worldwide scientific consensus that we need to do something about global warming and we need to do it urgently.

I would indeed “have us believe this great industrial and scientific nation is incapable of exploiting any of it (the gas) safely”. I base this assessment on experience within those other great nations, the USA and Australia, where there is now overwhelming evidence, some of it from government sources, of the risks involved with shale gas, “fracking” and the like.

Solar PanelsDomestic Wind TurbineMr Lees’ implication that simply because there is so much gas beneath our feet we should use it applies equally to the sun, the wind and the waves all around us. Only in the case of renewables there will be significantly less pollution, significantly less industrialisation of our countryside, and significantly less chance of things going wrong. And we have the added benefit that the fuel is essentially free and available to all – individuals and communities as well as big business.

It’s not dithering about nuclear power that has brought us to this sorry pass where there is a real risk of energy shortages in the coming years. It is the failure of successive governments to keep their promises on carbon reduction and investment in renewables. Fortunately it is much quicker and easier to bring renewables online than it is to plan for new nuclear or new gas.

Investment in renewables will save us from sitting in the cold and dark on winter nights, not the grand schemes of multi-national corporations whose real interest is harvesting public subsidies to increase their already obscene profits.

Fracking Cannot be Made Safe

fracking shale gas analysisSwansea Council reassures us that “any planning application for gas drilling would have to include a full assessment of the environmental, social and economic implications of the proposal” (‘Are we being ripped off’, Evening Post, 27th March, final paragraph).

In practice these assessments are produced by the companies applying to drill rather than independently; and sadly our local councils lack the expertise, experience and resources to provide the required level of scrutiny when considering such applications.

All local councils in Wales are obliged by ‘Planning Policy Wales’ to apply the “precautionary principle” to all developments. This document says, “… measures to prevent possibly serious environmental damage should not be postponed just because of scientific uncertainty about how serious the risk is.”

In other words, if we have no independently verified guarantee that it can be done safely, then it shouldn’t be done at all.

There is now ample, independently verified evidence from the USA and elsewhere that “fracking” and other forms of unconventional gas development are far from safe and will have unacceptable adverse impacts on our communities and the environment.

In this situation the default position for our councils has to be rejection of all applications for unconventional gas development until it can be proven to be safe.

All the regulation on earth can only make unconventional gas extraction safer – it cannot make it safe.

 

 

 

Anti-fracking campaigners get better turnout than Labour Party!

Odd use of the phrase “full house” by Swansea Labour Party (‘Party launches EU campaign’, Evening Post, 17 February).

Granted it was a small room, but I counted no more than eight people at any one time, and not one member of the public as far as I could see.  

Such a small turnout is of course in line with the dwindling turnout for elections, fuelled by the growing dissatisfaction with the political process.  

To quote Lawrence Bailey, Labour’s former leader in Swansea, “Even fewer think it’s (the electoral process) a viable means of achieving change compared with direct action …” (‘Do we get the politicians we deserve?’, Evening Post, 18 February).

His comments are borne out by the fact that at the same time as Swansea Labour were launching their EU campaign to an almost empty room, over 60 local campaigners were gathered in an adjoining room to discuss concerns about fracking and unconventional gas development.

The strength of opposition to fracking is perhaps something the Labour Party should be paying attention to as they seek to “appear distinctive” and “position themselves in line with current public trends”.

After all, following the recent extreme weather in the UK their leader Ed Miliband now accepts that climate change is an issue of national security and that we need tougher decarbonisation targets and a boost for investment in the green economy – all of which runs counter to the current government’s obsession with fossil fuels, shale gas and fracking.

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Anti-fracking campaigners enjoying a day of workshops, discussion and action planning, while next door Labour launch their election campaign to an empty room!

It’s all going on here!

Test DrillingFollowing a long day trip to Barton Moss and back yesterday, it’s all kicking off today with the government’s announcement of their incentives (bribes!) for fracking.

Managed to tie that in with an article in the local paper;’French ‘fracking’ boost but campaigners in Wales fear blight on countryside‘, with lots of quotes from your’s truly.
Swiftly followed by an invite to appear on the Jason Mohammad programme on BBC Wales at lunchtime to debate the announcement with Nick Grealy, Director of ‘No Hot Air’ (http://www.nohotair.co.uk/).
You can get the programme for the next week on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03qkf4j.  My bit starts around 2 hours and 5 mins into the programme – although if you start it at 2 hours you get to groove to Prince (Kiss) before we come on (which is exactly what I was doing in the studio before Steffan introduced me!).
 

Even the Lawyers are turning against this wicked and deceitful government

ImageOver the past few years I have spent some time helping to support Asylum Seekers and Refugees.  When people seeking asylum, even those with compelling cases, are refused and run out of “legal” options, when the whole world seems to combine against them and brand them as liars and cheats, it is more often than not a Barrister who steps in to save the day – sometimes paid through Legal Aid, but generally working pro bono (i.e. for nothing).

So I know how important access to good quality legal advice and representation is for the needy, the weak and the poor.  That’s why I spent part of my morning standing with a group of lawyers outside the Crown Court in Swansea as part of the first national lawyers strike in UK history.

As a “professional” protestor, I have to say it was one of the strangest protests I’ve ever been on.  There were no banners, no placards and no chanting.  Just a group of well dressed people standing around being very polite.  But that shouldn’t detract from the very important message they had to deliver – a message that has relevance to each and every one of us.

This is what they had to say:

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Today is a momentous day.  Barristers and Solicitors across England and Wales who care about justice are refusing to attend Court for the first time in history.

Our system of justice is the envy of the world but gradually over time it has become starved of resources.  Those who practice in Crime are treated with contempt by the UK Government.  Now the very future of our criminal justice system is in jeopardy by the imposition of savage cuts to funding.

We became Barristers because we believe in justice.  Our system exists to ensure that the guilty are punished and that the innocent are acquitted.  This can only be achieved by ensuring that the system is properly funded and that the brightest and the best are prepared to undertake publicly funded work.  The Attorney General himself acknowledges that fees are already so low that talent is leaving the Criminal Bar and that fewer are coming forward to replace them.

The Chairman of the CBA, Nigel Lithman QC, has repeatedly warned the UK Government that the cuts pose the most serious threat to the British legal system in over 400 years.  He does not stand alone.  Respected Judges and lawyers the length and breadth of the land have issued similar warnings.  They have been ignored.

Now Lord Faulks QC, new Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice in the House of Lords, supports us.  We quote directly;

“It is beyond argument that criminal barristers are, for the most part, very moderately paid …  There is no doubt that the criminal Bar is a profession in crisis” and “I fear that the fat has been so far removed from the carcass of criminal legal aid that these further cuts really threaten our justice system”.

We have repeatedly warned the UK Government about their proposed course and its consequences.  They know that already barristers and their solicitor colleagues who practice in Crime and who protect our liberty do not earn the mythical sums that the UK Government speak of.  Their own figures released on the 2nd of January 2014 confirm what we have been telling them for years.

We wish to bring to public attention that which is being done in your name.  We the Bar of England and Wales will not sit idly by and watch its destruction.  We will do what we have been trained to do: fight for justice; our fight now is to save Justice for this generation and generations to follow.

Snow in the Middle East is no joke

I don’t agree with Gordon W Triggs about much, but I’ve always taken him to be an educated person.

However, his latest letter (‘More green taxes needed’, Evening Post, 21 December) displays ignorance on several levels.

 Anyone with even a basic grasp of meteorology could explain how differential warming in the atmosphere could lead to snow in the Middle East for the first time in over a century; particularly as it followed the warmest November on record worldwide. 

But of more concern is his crass ignorance of the plight of children in the Middle East.

No amount of “snow ball fights and skating” could distract the children of Syria from the nightmare that their lives have become.

And as a result of “the recent extreme weather event” the beleaguered children of Gaza have found themselves wading through waist-high freezing water in order to get to school.

Rather than using the plight of the children of the Middle East in order to score petty points, perhaps Gordon Triggs should take consolation in the words of Sir Bob Geldof (‘Feed the World’) and, “tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

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Fracking – an energy bonanza, but for whom?

Test DrillingCouncillor Ioan Richard’s personal dislike for “the green brigade” appears to be clouding his judgement when it comes to proposals to extract Coal Bed Methane from the former South Wales coalfields (‘Fracking could boost south west Wales’, South Wales Evening Post, 7 December).

In comparing these new technologies to coal mining, he fails to appreciate that we are not talking about a few mines, but about hundreds, possibly thousands of well-heads spread across the valleys, including his home ward of Mawr.

Methane may be “the cleanest of all fossil fuels”, but it is still a fossil fuel and a potent greenhouse gas.  Its global warming potential is less than carbon dioxide when it is burned, but significantly greater if it leaks into the atmosphere.

Evidence from the USA and Australia shows that all gas wells leak eventually, and that many of them leak methane into the atmosphere from day one.

Added to the very real risk of methane leaks are issues around water usage, water pollution, air pollution, industrialisation of the countryside, and infrastructure requirements on a scale that will dwarf the disruption caused by wind-farm development.  All for very little benefit to local communities.

The drive to exploit shale gas, Coal Bed Methane and Underground Coal Gasification has nothing to do with energy security.  It is purely about profit, with little regard for the environment or for the communities that will suffer as a result.

The best way to bring about a “home developed energy bonanza” is wholesale development of renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency.  This would create far more jobs than the proposed “new dash for gas”; sustainable, long term jobs.

It would also provide us with energy security for as long as the sun, the wind and the waves might last.

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