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Dart attempt to salvage controversial gas plans

By Friends of the Earth Scotland | Edinburgh, Sep 4 2013

Commenting on the news of Dart Energy's effort to raise £12 million [1], Friends of the Earth Scotland Campaigns Co-ordinator Mary Church said:

"This looks like a last desperate attempt by Dart to convince investors to salvage its highly uncertain and controversial coalbed methane plans.

"The company's portfolio has been shrinking ever since Dart was kicked out of Australia and had to slash its global workforce by 70% earlier this year. It's clear that Dart's hopes of generating income are now pinned on the Airth coalbed methane scheme, but the project faces strong local opposition and a lengthy public inquiry process.

"In today's announcement Dart carefully fail to mention that HSBC have frozen its loan facility due to delays with the Airth project, and that new Scottish Government planning proposals could make its operations unviable. Dart also fail to recognise the major risk to its gas plans presented by the strength of community opposition at Airth, and throughout the UK as demonstrated at Balcombe.

"Potential investors should beware and think twice before throwing good money after bad money on Dart. Unconventional gas is unsafe, unnecessary and unwanted, and Dart has a Sisyphean task ahead of it to convince communities otherwise."

Trading in Dart Energy securities was halted last week, shortly after HSBC froze its substantial loan facility to Dart Energy because of delays with the Airth coalbed methane project.[2]

Dart's effort to re-capitalise comes hours after respected economist Lord Stern criticised David Cameron's claims that an unconventional gas boom would bring gas prices down as "baseless economics".[3]

Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for a ban on all unconventional gas extraction because of the climate and local environmental and health risks associated with the industry.


Notes to editors

1. Announcement on the Australian Securities Exchange

2. Restructuring update from Dart Energy detailing HSBC loan freeze

3. "'Baseless economics': Lord Stern on David Cameron's claims that a UK fracking boom can bring down price of gas

4. "Fracking row: Scottish village of Airth could be next battleground between energy firms and green campaigners

5. In April 2013 Dart announced a major restructure including slashing 70% of its global workforce. Dart's Top man in Europe Mark Lappin quit in July.

6. Australian company Dart Energy is the leading unconventional gas developer in Scotland. Dart's flagship development at Airth, near Falkirk faces strong community opposition and has been beset by delays. In June 2013 Dart appealed their application for 22 new wells, a gas and water treatment facility and a network of pipelines to the Scottish Government on grounds of non-determination. A Public Inquiry process is expected to start from the second half of October 2013.

7. Dart Energy has pulled out of its Australian ventures following a ban on all unconventional gas activity - not just hydraulic fracturing - within 2km of residential areas introduced by the New South Wales Government. A conservative estimate suggests there are at least 2,000 homes within 2km of Dart Energy's Airth development. If a similar ban were in place in Scotland Dart's development at Airth could not go ahead.

8. A study by the Queensland Government found that 44% of the 58 wells tested in 3 fields were leaking. Research by the Southern Cross University in Australia found gas was leaking at around 3.5 times the level expected in coalbed methane fields

9. The industry in Australia estimates that up to 40% of coalbed methane wells will eventually be fracked. See Australian National Greenhouse Accounts, Coal Seam Gas Estimation and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2012.

10. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that over its short lifetime is over a hundred times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide. Research indicates that unconventional gas could be worse in climate terms than burning coal because of methane leakage from gas fields. See Cornell University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who found that 9% of total gas production at a field in Utah was leaking into the atmosphere.

11. An investigation by a GP in early 2013 of 38 households in close proximity to coal seam gas wells in Tara, Queensland, found that 58% of residents reported definite adverse health effects related to gas drilling and a further 19% were uncertain. Symptoms include breathing difficulties, rashes, joint and muscle pains, nausea and vomiting, and spontaneous nosebleeds. See here.

12. Bans and moratoria around the world

France: A nationwide ban on fracking
Switzerland: A moratorium on fracking was introduced in the canton of Fribourg
Germany: Moratorium in Northrhine-Westphalia on fracking. Lower Saxony likely to do the same.
Bulgaria: Government banned fracking
Czech Republic: A moratorium on fracking, considering outright ban
Spain: Cantabria banned fracking, La Rioja is also currently considering same
Denmark: Moratorium on fracking
Quebec: A moratorium on fracking
United States: Vermont banned fracking, and New York has moratorium
New South Wales: ban on any coal bed methane activity within 2km of residential areas, and within critical industry clusters such as winegrowing areas
Ireland: 2-year moratorium on fracking

13. Friends of the Earth Scotland is * Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups - covering every continent.



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