The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are handling Australian gas drillers Dart Energy like a baby wombat when in fact they have more in common with a massively destructive fossil fuel industry.
Dart Energy have run into problems at Fullerton Cove in New South Wales but have been pumping water and methane out of coal seams on a site at Airth near Falkirk for over 8 months now. Recent enquiries and FOI requests submitted to SEPA have revealed that they have not tested this water at any stage. When asked about the composition of the water SEPA freely admit that the only testing carried out is by Dart.
Dart say that the water is treated onsite before it is discharged into the Firth of Forth via their consented discharge point inherited from Hillfarm Coal Co Limited. This permission dates back to 1997. Dart inherited their permissions to abstract and dump water from Composite Energy, the company that previously owned the sites before new regulations came into force so no Hydro ecological assessment was done for the application. The permission allows them to dump 300,000 litres per day into the Firth of Forth. Permissions are being passed between companies, potentially avoiding updated legislation and making it hard for outside observers to find the information.
What makes all of this more worrying is that on the 29th August Dart submitted plans for a massive expansion to their operation at Airth the first Unconventional Gas Production Project in the British Isles. Dart boast that Airth is their flagship project and are desperate to push ahead with Coal Bed Methane extraction in Scotland at all costs.
There should be three sets of test records, one set for the raw waste water, another for the dumped water and a third for the sludge/material removed but this is not publicly available. In addition the records will only detail the results of the tests carried out. Materials that have not been tested for such as those mentioned in the video below, that are typically found in waste water of this type will not show up. The permission only details 7 controlled parameters.
Reports from local residents raise further questions about where the waste water and sludge is going. Some report being woken at night by tractors with orange flashing lights pulling bowsers of water down the narrow track to the discharge point. Others have seen tankers heading to other unknown destinations.
The fact that SEPA have not visited the site or monitored the waste water reveal the extent of self regulation and naivety on the part of regulators when dealing with unconventional gas development in the British Isles. It seems that nobody in planning or regulation is learning from the emergent disasters in Australia, the US and Canada.
Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith speaking about toxic risks of CSG at Lismore, New South Wales, March 2012. Coal Seam Gas has become a menace in Australia and a catalogue of issues and impacts are emerging as well as a ground swell of resistance.
The decision on Darts production application has now been delayed until 6th January. You can find out more here.