'Historic' Vote As Wales Joins Scotland in Saying No to Fracking

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'Historic' Vote As Wales Joins Scotland in Saying No to Fracking

'This is a clear statement that we want a frack-free Wales,' says Welsh official.

"The shale industry’s seemingly irresistible advance is now looking more and more resistible every day," says Louise Hutchins of Greenpeace UK. (Photo: FrackFree Wales/Facebook)

Just one week after Scotland announced its moratorium on fracking, the Welsh government voted on Wednesday to block the toxic method of shale gas extraction until it is proven safe from environmental and public health standpoints.

The Plaid Cymru political party's motion calls for control over fracking to be fully devolved from Westminster—seat of the U.K. government—to the National Assembly for Wales. In addition, it "calls on the Welsh Government to do everything within its power to prevent fracking from taking place in Wales until it is proven to be safe in both an environmental and public health context."

"The Westminster Government needs to catch up with Scotland, Wales, and many other areas of the world and bring in a moratorium on controversial fracking."
—Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth

In advance of the vote, the Welsh government had confirmed it would support the opposition party’s motion.

"It’s a historic day," North Wales assembly member Llyr Gruffyd, of the Plaid Cymru party. "This is a clear statement from the National Assembly for Wales that we want a frack-free Wales."

Friends of the Earth UK has noted that fracking increases greenhouse gas emissions, risks environmental damage, and won't create the jobs in Wales that the industry promises.

Gareth Clubb, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said he was "delighted" by Wednesday's news. "We look forward to the Welsh government using all the powers it currently has under planning and environmental permitting to make sure that unconventional gas extraction does not take place in Wales," he said.

Last week, a Welsh official from Swansea called on the Council of Europe to support a moratorium on fracking across the continent.

"The world stands on the brink of environmental catastrophe," said Geraint Davies, Labor MP for Swansea West. "If just one fifth of the available fossil fuels is burnt, global temperatures will grow beyond the two degrees tipping point that could send the world into irreversible climate change, with storms, floods, tidal waves, major disruption to our future food and water supplies, forced migration and conflict as growing populations are displaced and compete for scarce resources."

"Yet the dash for shale gas continues, egged on by a hunger from austerity provoked by a financial crisis caused by the irresponsibility of unregulated bankers," he continued.

Davies added: "In the United States, President Bush's exclusion of fracking from the clean air and water regulations allowed the industry to power forward without counting the environmental costs, which might turn out to be astronomical."

Despite widespread public opposition to the practice, and evidence that fracking is incompatible with national climate change targets, the U.K. failed last month to pass a nationwide moratorium. 

"The Westminster Government needs to catch up with Scotland, Wales and many other areas of the world and bring in a moratorium on controversial fracking," Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Donna Hume said following Wednesday's vote. "Fracking in the U.K. is looking increasingly like a lame duck. It's time the Government stopped trying to get this damaging and unpopular industry off the ground and started prioritizing energy efficiency and renewable energy."

A Guardian analysis published Monday shows that, thanks to concessions made by U.K. ministers during last month's debate, fracking is set to be banned on two-fifths of the land in England being offered for shale gas exploration by the government.

"The shale industry’s seemingly irresistible advance is now looking more and more resistible every day," Louise Hutchins of Greenpeace U.K. told the Guardian. "Unless ministers can explain why fracking is too risky for the South Downs but perfectly safe in the Lancashire countryside, the next obvious step is to ban this controversial technique from the whole of the UK."

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