Dart Energy Forth valley gas inquiry begins

The inquiry looks at plans to extract methane from the coal bed

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A public inquiry into controversial proposals to drill for gas in the Forth valley is under way in Falkirk.

Dart Energy has outlined plans to drill 22 wells in an area near Airth known as Letham Moss.

The development site straddles the boundary of Falkirk and Stirling councils.

The company's proposal to extract methane from the coal bed deep underground have faced opposition from local residents and campaigners.

Public inquiry The inquiry into the gas drilling plans is expected to last about three weeks

More than 2,500 people have lodged objections to the proposals.

Dart Energy has insisted its plans will not involve hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as "fracking".

But the environmental group, Friends of the Earth Scotland, claimed coal bed methane extraction carries many similar risks to the process of extracting shale gas by hydraulic fracturing.

And it said the industry often resorts to hydraulic fracturing to increase productivity once the gas flow from wells begins to decline after several years of operation.

'Methane myths'

Dart Energy said the public inquiry will provide it with an opportunity to allay concerns in the community and correct what it describes as "the many myths" surrounding the production of coal bed methane.

Inquiry protesters Opponents to the proposals staged a demonstration outside the inquiry

Douglas Bain, Country Manager for Dart Energy, said: "We are pleased to have the opportunity through the public inquiry of demonstrating the important strategic role gas will need to play in delivering safe, secure and economical energy to the UK in in the coming decades as we transition to a low carbon economy.

"We will seek through the public inquiry to address and allay with scientific rigour the concerns of the communities."

Dart Energy's opponents have argued its proposals represent a serious threat to the local environment and could jeopardise Scotland's climate change targets.

Stirling Green Party councillor and former MSP, Mark Ruskell, said: "You cannot overestimate the importance of this inquiry, it will effectively decide whether the entire dirty gas industry has a future in the UK or not.

"It's been left to communities to defend our local and global environment while government has fiddled around with half-baked policy. Nothing short of a moratorium on these developments until key concerns can be resolved will do."

The inquiry is expected to last three weeks.

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