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Scotland enacts fracking moratorium

Decision comes as Edinburgh expresses frustration over energy management.

By Daniel J. Graeber

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Scottish government will take a cautious look at shale oil and gas extraction during a moratorium period, the energy minister said Thursday.

"I am announcing a moratorium on the granting of planning consents for all unconventional oil and gas developments, including fracking," Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said in a statement.

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The ban comes as those in the British government press ahead with its shale ambitions despite frustration surrounding the frontier natural gas sector. Authorities in Lancashire County in England, said to hold vast shale natural gas deposits, are reviewing drilling applications submitted by Cuadrilla Resources.

Ewing said the moratorium was enacted so Scottish legislators could take time to review public health or other concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking.

"We recognize that local communities are likely to bear the brunt of any unconventional oil and gas developments, particularly in terms of increased traffic and related emissions and noise impacts," he said. "These are issues that must be researched further."

The Scottish government bet its future on oil and gas revenue from North Sea operations during a failed bid for independence last year. The decision from Edinburgh comes as it pressures its British counterparts for a more diluted power structure when it comes to energy sector management. The British government said shale gas could help advance a low-carbon economy at the same time as cutting dependence on foreign imports. Opponents say fossil fuels in general should be sidelined in favor of renewables, noting any shale benefits are a long time off.

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Through fiscal year 2016, the Scottish government said it expects to see $7 billion in new infrastructure investment. Despite the mid-term growth expectations, Edinburgh said low oil prices may be a benefit in some economic sectors, but adds uncertainty to operations in the North Sea.

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