Rebel Against Double Whammy Extinction Event in Cumbria: Coal & Nuclear

Extinction Rebellion seems to be very much in the news just at present.   Here in Cumbria we have our own terrifyingly real threat of extinction.     Not only is there Sellafield with its deadly collection of nuclear waste – we also have an ongoing planning application for a new coal mine reaching under the sea to within 5 miles of the nightmare nuclear site.

West Cumbria Mining have an active planning application with Cumbria County Council to open the first deep coal mine in 30 years.       Given the urgent need to cut carbon emissions this is total madness.   Given the proximity to Sellafield of mining operations, known to cause earth tremors, the proposal does threaten very real extinction here and now.

As far as we can ascertain from the documents available on the Cumbria County Council’s website there has been no consultation with Sellafield concerning the risks of a major nuclear emergency. Seismic disturbance affecting Sellafield would be a very rapid extinction of all life forms within a very wide radius.   And wherever the wind blows. EXTINCTION IN CAPITAL LETTERS ON A HUGE SCALE.

And then there is the carbon.     West Cumbria Mining [WCM] have a way of describing their proposal as the extraction of metallurgical coking coal for the steel industry – implying that somehow the burning of this fossil fuel is somehow different to burning fossil fuels for energy generation.

Burning coal is burning coal – and WCM plan to extract 2.8 million tonnes of it every year during the lifespan of the proposed mine.  Assuming a 40 year life (following construction), and an average of 2 million tonnes a year, that is a total production of 80 million tonnes!

In terms of the Paris agreement and the current Katowice discussions this application must be stopped.

The WCM application and the many letters of concern and objection can be found at https://planning.cumbria.gov.uk/     The Application reference is 4/17/9007

Anyone wishing to comment can write to Rachel Brophy, Senior Planning Officer rachel.brophy@cumbria.gov.uk

The WCM planning application was made in mid 2017. It has been postponed and postponed and postponed by Cumbria’s Planning Committee during all of 2018.   It may, or may not, come to Council early in 2019.

We need to be as vocal and as visible as we can possibly be in opposing this hideous proposal.   It is a very real threat to life on an unimaginable scale far larger than the threat to Guillemots that the RSPB has limited its comments to.

We have with the help of top lawyers Leigh Day ensured that we may still have a chance to stop the plan should Cumbria County Council say yes to this diabolic fossil fuel development.  But lets MAKE SURE CUMBRIA COUNTY COUNCIL SAY A BIG FAT NO!!!

 

MORE INFO

This application may be decided on these dates (tbc)  in the new year by Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee at County Offices, Kendal

18 Jan 2019 10.00 am

22 Feb 2019 10.00 am

The WCM application and the many letters of concern and objection can be found at https://planning.cumbria.gov.uk/     The Application reference is 4/17/9007

Anyone wishing to comment can write to Rachel Brophy, Senior Planning Officer rachel.brophy@cumbria.gov.uk and ask that your letter is sent to all members of the Development Control and Regulation Committee.

Or write to all members of the Development Control and Regulation Committee – their contact details can be found here

WRITE, PHONE, EMAIL, MAKE A BIG NOISE

 

RSPB - St Bees Black guillemot

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Briefing Note from Radiation Free Lakeland on the Coal Mine Plan

Poster small

All Councillors on the Committee making the decision have been sent the following Briefing Note from Radiation Free Lakeland.  Please do use this as an inspiration for your own objections to the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  The planning meeting has been deferred (fourth time this!)  until May 30th so more time to get your fingers dancing on the keyboards, get those pens out, get on the phone to Councillors and Object, Object Object!!! Councillor Details here

 

BRIEFING NOTE FROM RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

WEST CUMBRIA MINING PROPOSAL Ref No: 4/17/9007

 Part 1

  • Wildlife
  • Health
  • Seismic Activity and Sellafield

Part 2

  • Climate
  • Planning
  • Employment

 Part 1

 WILDLIFE

The West Cumbria Mining proposal would have adverse impacts on designated sites of national and international importance

Minewater Discharge and The Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

The National Trust have said: “We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.” RSPB have also noted concerns regarding potential pollution of the Marine Conservation Zone.

Seismic impacts on St Bees Head Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

West Cumbria Mining conclude that “minor seismic events will be significant below a magnitude 3 event, and any event which may occur as a result of mining activities will not cause damage to people, property or the natural environment” (Page 75 of the WCM Addendum: Seismicity). . The RSPB in their submission note that “We consider it imperative that the Council deploy a suitable level of expertise to ensure that the additional information provided by the applicant provides a robust assessment of the potential for seismic events – both in magnitude and frequency – to have an adverse effect upon designated sites listed above. In particular, upon the notified features of the SSSI – which include geological features and isolated breeding bird colonies. It should be noted that the SSSI supports England’s only breeding black guillemot – which are small in number and already vulnerable to stochastic events.”

Noise Disturbance, Dust, Vibrations etc.

The development has the potential to have an adverse effect upon the St Bees Head SSSI through disturbance to breeding birds during excavations and coal processing. Notwithstanding the developers assurances the RSPB state “In our previous response, we considered that there was insufficient evidence to be able to evaluate the potential for impacts upon the SSSI, nor the efficacy of the proposed mitigation. In particular, the noise assessment detailed in Chapter 14 does not make the link between the development and any ecological receptors. We note that no further evidence has been presented by the applicant in this regard. In summary, the RSPB’s opinion is unchanged – in that insufficient information has been submitted by the applicant to allow a robust assessment of the potential ecological impacts of this proposal.”

Solway Firth European Designated Site (Natura 2000)Precaution must be adopted when considering potential impacts from a development adjacent (1.5km) to an internationally recognised marine environment

  • HEALTH

The old Marchon Chemical plant and Anhydrite mine that fed it are key to the WCM application. As referenced above, The anhydrite mine would need to be dewatered. This would exacerbate the previous legacy operations which are still having a “significant” impact on health.

“There is also a significant radiological impact due to the legacy of past discharges of radionuclides from non-nuclear industrial activity that also occur naturally in the environment. This includes radionuclides discharged from the former phosphate processing plant at Whitehaven, and so monitoring is carried out near this site.” Radioactivity in Food and the Environment 2016. https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/report2016_0.pdf

These cumulative assaults on West Cumbrian health would be additional to well documented climate change health impacts and the intolerable danger that this mine would represent to the safe stewardship of Sellafield

  • SEISMIC ACTIVITY AND SELLAFIELD

At just 8km away from Sellafield (even nearer to Moorside) according to West Cumbria Mining this development is ridiculously near to over 140 tons of plutonium.   Increased tremors and quakes resulting from mining is well documented The potential for man-made tremors at the Sellafield site is too awful to contemplate.

There are~20 large holding tanks at Sellafield containing thousands of litres of extremely radiotoxic fission products.”

Nuclear Management Partners, stated in 2012: “There is a mass of very hazardous [nuclear] waste onsite in storage conditions that are extraordinarily vulnerable.

The National Audit Office (NAO) stated these tanks pose “significant risks to people and the environment”. These dangerous tanks have also been the subject of repeated complaints from Ireland and Norway who fear their countries could be contaminated if explosions or fires were to occur.

  • The North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority have submitted to Cumbria County Council that

“Offshore Subsidence – resuspension and dispersal of radioactive contaminants. The documentation has confirmed to NWIFCA that a risk of subsidence exists and therefore there remains an overwhelming concern over the potential for disturbance and resuspension of radioactive contaminants and sediments.

Radiation Free Lakeland agree and would add that this risk of subsidence of the seabed would enable the resuspension of decades worth of radioactive and chemical contaminants not only from Sellafield but also from the firing of depleted uranium shells into the Irish Sea and the Solway Firth.   http://theseacannotbedepleted.net/

PART 2

CLIMATE and PLANNING

 

The WCM proposal fails to quantify the overall carbon emissions resulting from it’s activity. It also fails to address the climate impact of its activity. The application is clearly incompatible with national and international climate change policy and legislation as summarised below.

  • The UK is signatory to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement committing us to the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

 

  • The UK is working to the 2008 Climate Change Act committing us to a legally binding 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The UK will phase out coal for electricity generation by 2025.   The proposed 50 year lifespan of the mine goes well beyond the UKs existing commitment to bring carbon emissions nationally to zero. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes their latest report later in 2018 it is acknowledged that UK legislation will need yet further strengthening to meet our international carbon reduction commitments.

 

  • The National Planning Policy Framework states –

 

Para 93 ‘“Planning plays a key role in helping to shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development”

Para 149. ‘Permission should not be given for the extraction of coal unless the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or if not, it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts to justify the grant of planning permission.’

 

  • The proposed Woodhouse Colliery would produce combined CO2 from the methane emissions of the mine; the energy used in running the mine itself and transport; the burning of the lower class of coal and the burning of the higher class coal in steelmaking. At a production rate of 2.8Mt/year the produced coal would generate 1.24Mt CO2.

 

  • The WCM application seems to imply that coal used in steelmaking does not produce CO2 emissions. This is clearly not the case. WCM even claim to be reducing CO2 emissions compared to importing coal from the USA.     Some of the CO2 would be produced in Cumbria and some at the locations of steelmaking where the coal is to be exported.   Given that all countries are equally bound by the Paris Agreement and equally committed to reducing fossil fuel use – it is highly unlikely that steel manufacturers will be seeking to import Cumbrian coal.   There is rapid innovation in steel making processes to eliminate the fossil fuel component and the unknown impact of Brexit.

 

 

  • The FOE submission July 2017 states – ‘Despite the applicant’s stated intentions for the use of coke coal, the proposal is nonetheless incompatible with recent government announcements and consultations linked to coal phase-out. Its use within ore extraction and steel making will inevitably lead to its being burnt and CO2 release. . . . . coal is on the way out and applications for its extraction are incompatible with government’s strategic approach which aims to reduce its well documented contribution to climate change.’

 

  • FOE also state in Oct 2017 – ‘Our view is that the applicants have failed to demonstrate the scheme’s ability to comply with UK carbon budgets and to satisfy Schedule 4 of the 2011 EIA regulations (re consideration of significant impacts on…” climatic factors”)’

 

 

  • There are also planning issues relating to carbon, climate, subsidence and pollution issues which relate to other nations within and outwith the UK and the necessary consultation with such nations.

 

EMPLOYMENT

The NPPF statement on achieving sustainable development states –

‘International and national bodies have set out broad principles of sustainable development. Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.’

 

The people of West Cumbria need employment opportunities to be sustainable in all senses – both economically and in terms of low carbon.

In addition to failing to provide a sustainable environment – the WCM application clearly fails to provide both a sustainable economy or sustainable employment.   There can be no jobs, economic growth or prosperity when the fossil fuel products are no longer viable.

 

One model for the creation of sustainable local economies is that of CLES which is gaining great interest – and action – among various Local Authorities in the North West and beyond. ‘ CLES is the UK’s leading, independent think and do tank realising progressive economics for people and place. Our aim is to achieve social justice, good local economies and effective public services for everyone, everywhere.

 

Additional Info

Coal Mining Causes Earthquakes – National Geographic

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070103-mine-quake_2.html

 

Fisheries and Conservation Authority Concerns: Irish Sea Subsidence and Resuspension of Radionuclides

https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/fisheries-and-conservation-authority-concerns-irish-sea-subsidence-and-resuspension-of-radionuclides/

 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Steel Industry

https://link.springer.com/article/10.3103/S0967091215090107

 

World Steel Figures in 2017

https://www.worldsteel.org/media-centre/press-releases/2017/world-steel-in-figures-2017.html

 

Sweden aims for first place in carbon free steel race

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/building-construction/sweden-aims-for-first-place-in-carbon-free-steel-race

 

Beginners Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/23/a-beginners-guide-to-fossil-fuel-divestment

 

Progressive Economics for people and place

https://cles.org.uk

 

The Preston Model

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/31/preston-hit-rock-bottom-took-back-control

Letter in the Guardian – Cumbrian Coal Must Stay in the Ground

The government’s rejection of coal-mining in Northumberland is good news, says Marianne Birkby. Now they must follow up by rejecting plans for a new Cumbrian mine

St Bees, Cumbria
The proposed deep coal mine would run under the Irish Sea off the coast of St Bees, Cumbria (pictured). Photograph: Chris Ord

What fantastic news that the government has rejected plans for an opencast coal mine in Northumberland (Javid rejects plan for opencast coalmine, 24 March).

This should put the nail firmly in the coffin of the plan for the first deep coalmine in the UK in 30 years. This would be at the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, which is north of Kendal (not south as wrongly located in your article) and under the Irish Sea off the beautiful coastline of St Bees.

St Bees happens to be the last place where the black guillemot nests in England, which is why the RSPB has opposed the plan. Other reasons to oppose, apart from the compelling climate-change argument, are that it is just five miles from Sellafield. The Davy lamp was tested out in nearby Whitehaven because coal seams here are so gassy with methane. What could go wrong with mining ever nearer to Sellafield? There is a petition to sign opposing this mad plan at 38 Degrees called Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.
Marianne Birkby
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

New Petition to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Please Sign, Share and Talk about this, Letters to the press, please help to stop this plan in whatever way you can. Incredibly this mad, bad and dangerous plan has received far less media attention and discussion than the proposed Zip wires accross Thirlmere.  Why is that?  What is Going On?

The Petition can be signed here

The Full Petition Text is below….

Please do not let Cumbria be the first place in 30 years to open a deep coal mine in the UK. The proposed undersea coal mine under the beautiful coastline at St Bees would be five miles from Sellafield and five miles from the plan for new reactors (Moorside) at Beckermet. Coal mining is known to increase seismic activity.

Why is this important?

What People are Saying:

“We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.” National Trust

“ The application site is in proximity (Solway Firth 1.5km) to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features.”Natural England

“any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine heritage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact ..The history of contamination of watercourses in the areas raises concerns for some local residents in relation to the impact of the development on the complex hydrology of the area.” Colourful Coast Partnership

“Our position is to object to the proposed development on the grounds of the adverse impact on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity.”Environment Agency

“It is clear that this is a very large mine, with a very long life span…of 20-50 years and a peak of 2.8 million tonnes a year. Assuming a 40 year life (following construction), and an average of 2 million tonnes a year, that is a total production of 80 million tonnes, which will emit around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The level of emissions and proposed life-time of the mine is of major concern….We would also query whether or not there has been robust enough analysis of the potential for seismicity (and subsidence) relating to well-known nuclear facilities in the wider area, including Sellafield and proposed new facility at Moorside? What potential is there for seismicity to effect these and other facilities (including the low level waste repository at Drigg) and the possible high level waste radioactive waste facility which has been proposed in West Cumbria for some time.” Friends of the Earth

“The application should be rejected because it is not in the national interest. From reviewing the documents submitted by West Cumbria Mining it is clear that the intention is to export the coal to Europe and Asia…The application to mine is too close to the Sellafield nuclear site and the proposal for another nuclear power station at Moorside. Underground mining can have a significant impact on the surrounding areas, recently a coking coal mine in Russia triggered an earthquake.” Coal Action Network

Just some of the “Star Species” found in this Heritage Coast and Marine Conservation Zone are listed by the RSPB as: Fulmar, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill and so many more that would be impacted on by the plan for a new coal mine with possible subsidence of the Irish Sea bed impacting on food sources such as sandeels (and not to mention disturbing and resuspending decades of Sellafield discharges which have settled there).

We ask that Cumbria County Council listen to the substantial concerns of the Coal Authority, Natural England, the National Trust, Coal Action Network, the Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Friends of the Earth and others and turn down West Cumbria Mining’s planning application.

How it will be delivered

The petition will be delivered to the planning meeting at Cumbria County Council offices in Kendal on 7th March 2018