|The recent rubber-stamping of a relatively small scale Coal Bed Methane (CBM) planning application for the St Johns Colliery site in Maesteg needs to be seen in its full and proper context.The applicants in this case are UK Methane, who are the same few people as Coastal Oil & Gas, who have put through a similar small scale CBM project at Cwmcedfyw Farm, near Llangynwyd. The grandiose sounding names of these companies hide the fact they are tiny companies consisting of Mr Gerwyn Williams and a couple of his mates. They do not own any resources; having to bring in Sunderland based contractors, Drillcorp, to drill at Cwmcedfyw, with labour picked up on route from Liverpool.These small scale projects are not really what they are about. It is a tactical approach used by the infamous Cuadrilla company in Lancashire, and other companies elsewhere. They undertake a couple of small, relatively innocuous methane projects (there are still serious issues over water contamination) to try and convince local people, and local planning departments, that they are not up to anything worth worrying about and that they can be trusted. With peoples guards down, they then sneak through applications for their real target shale gas that will require the use of the deep fracking techniques that have proven to be unreliable and the bringer of dire consequences (sooner or later, but inevitably) to local people and their environments.
Be under no illusion as to what Gerwyn and his cronies are up to. They are not very clever at disguising their intentions. Down at Llandow, their initial bungled application clearly stated shale gas at the target. As soon as the locals rose up and organised opposition (the Vale Says No! Campaign group) they resubmitted trying to pretend they were only really interested in conventional sandstone oil/gas. Pathetic. At St Johns Colliery, they successfully sneaked an application through to target the deep lying shales in January 2011, before we caught on to what they are up to. They again brought Drillcorp in to do that test borehole, but my understanding is that they had to abandon it because Drillcorps equipment was not up to the job.
Gerwyn is getting on a bit. Speculating on unconventional gas is his pension plan, I believe. He has picked up licences to explore for resources for very little investment (just a few thousand pounds) in South Wales, the Mendips and Kent. By undertaking some test drilling and conjuring up fanciful figures for the potential resource, he will look to sell on his licences at substantial profit and disappear into the sunset well before the frackers roll in and wreak their havoc.
There are now local opposition groups springing up across South Wales , and in order to share knowledge and resources we have recently seen FRACK-FREE WALES launched in Cardiff, which in turn belongs to a national (and increasingly international) network e.g. FRACK OFF and the ANTI-FRACKING NETWORK. We are watching them closely, but even with all the immense time, energy and effort of the fractivists, we still desperately need the general public to wake up to what is at stake. It needs to become a major political issue with peoples votes at stake, because this is the biggest threat to face the people of South Wales (and other threatened regions) for a generation at least.
The Tories in government have nailed their colours to the mast – short term profit and tax revenue, at any cost. The ‘Greenest Government Ever’ was laughable when they first uttered it. It is now just another nauseating lie. The Labour administration in the Welsh Government have steadfastly sat on the fence over this issue, and shamefully kowtowed to Westminster at every opportunity. Our Labour controlled Council in Bridgend (in common with all Local Authorities) are completely out of their depth; have nobody providing leadership or expertise; and yet are still the planning body we have to rely on to save us from this menace. As last week’s rubber-stamping exercise demonstrated, we simply cannot rely on them for that.
So finally, a plea for everybody to educate themselves and wise-up quickly. Just google fracking, or else check all the resources and information on the local situation at bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/?s=fracking . You can contact me for more information via the about page there.
Chair Bridgend Green Party
Co-Founder of the Anti-Fracking Network
SUBMITTED TO GLAMORGAN GAZETTE / WESTERN MAIL / SOUTH WALES ECHO / BRIDGEND GEM