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Scotland Enacts Moratorium on Unconventional Oil, Gas Development

Scotland's energy minister has imposed a moratorium on all unconventional oil and natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which is to remain in effect until comprehensive planning, environmental and health studies are completed and public hearings are held.

"The Scottish government has taken a responsible, cautious and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas extraction, and my statement sends the strongest possible message that we will continue to do so," Fergus Ewing, a member of the Scottish National Party, told the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

"We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities of new technologies, but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are never simply brushed aside. This government will not allow that to happen, and I hope that the actions that I have announced today will be widely welcomed as proportionate and responsible."

Ewing said the Scottish government "has long been concerned" about the approach the United Kingdom (UK) government had been taking to unconventional licensing in Scotland.

"The Scottish government's policy has been cautious, considered and evidence-based, whereas the UK's approach has sought to develop shale gas quickly, at any cost," Ewing said. "In particular, the Tory plan to remove landowners' rights to object to fracking under their property is a disgrace. I formally objected to the UK government plans and I am pleased that the UK will not now remove householders' rights in Scotland."

In June 2014, the British Geological Survey estimated that unconventional formations in Scotland's Midland Valley held between 49.4-134.6 Tcf of natural gas, and 3.2-11.2 billion bbl of oil, with central estimates of 80.3 Tcf and 6.0 billion bbl of oil.

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