Please object to Drax’s climate-choking plans to burn gas

Drax power station near Selby, Yorkshire. Photograph: Nican 45 (https://bit.ly/2LFdBcx)

Please object to Drax’s climate-choking plans to burn gas

Drax Plc., the world’s biggest biomass burner and the UK’s largest single emitter of CO2 has applied to the Planning Inspectorate to replace its two remaining coal-fired units with much larger ones burning fossil (natural) gas. This will, if granted, allow Drax to secure its position as the UK’s biggest fossil fuel burner for decades to come!

Drax claims on its website that this is part of their “strategy to play a vital role in changing the way energy is generated as the UK moves to a low carbon future.” The reality is that Drax made a net loss last year and switching to burning gas would allow the power station to keep operating once the government’s pledge to phase out ‘unabated coal’ by 2025 comes into force.

If this gas development goes ahead, it will tie the U.K. into the long-term burning of more fossil fuels at a time when we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

It will also enable Drax to continue burning millions of tonnes of wood pellets every year, many of which come from the clear felling of biodiverse forests in the US.

If you agree that we should not allow Drax to increase our carbon emissions by burning gas and wood biomass, please help us to stop Drax’s proposed gas development by sending an objection to the Planning Inspectorate. The deadline for responses is Wednesday 29 August 2018 at 11.59pm. 

For more information about the environmental and climate impact of Drax’s gas plans, please see our briefing here.

 

How to object to Drax’s planning application

You will need to register as an interested party and make a submission directly on the Planning Inspectorate’s website here: infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/yorkshire-and-the-humber/drax-re-power/?ipcsection=relreps

You will be asked for your name, address, phone number and email address and there is a text box where you can write your submission. 

Below is a pre-drafted consultation response which you can copy and paste for your main submission. You are very welcome to personalise your message. You will not be obliged to take any more actions if you become an interested party. 

If you have any problems submitting your objections or any questions, please email us at biofuelwatch[at]gmail.com. Please note that, although the Planning Inspectorate’s website says that submissions should only be 500 words, this is only guidance and the slightly longer text below is being accepted.

Dear Sir / Madam, 

I wish to object to the Drax Repower proposal to replace the final two coal-burning units at Drax with much larger ones to burn natural gas. I am objecting because I believe the proposal is not a sustainable development as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework, since it is not compatible with a transition to a low-carbon future.

I refer to the recent decision by the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to reject planning permission for an open-cast coal mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland in March this year. The incompatibility of the proposed coal mine with climate goals was cited as one of the grounds of the decision by the Secretary of State:  “The negative impact on greenhouse gases and climate change receives very considerable adverse weight in the planning balance.” (https://bit.ly/2pvXoxx).

Reasons why the proposal is incompatible with a transition to a low carbon economy and thus not a sustainable development:

Drax is already the U.K.’s single largest emitter of carbon dioxide and admits in its Preliminary Environmental Information Report that the burning of fossil (natural) gas at the power station will: “represent a significant net increase in greenhouse gas emissions and have therefore negative climate impacts.”

In order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, it is vital for the UK to phase out our fossil fuel emissions, not increase them. According to a recent Oil Change International report: “the coal, oil, and fossil gas in the world’s currently producing and under-construction projects, if fully extracted and burned, would take the world far beyond safe climate limits. Opening new fossil gas fields is inconsistent with the Paris climate goals.” (https://bit.ly/2NkdGE5) 

Permitting power stations such as Drax to burn large quantities of natural (fossil fuel) gas will push us beyond the 1.5 degree limit and prevent the UK from meeting its international commitments to tackle climate change. 

+  Drax proposes to build what would be by far the largest gas-burning power capacity ever built in the UK. It comes at a time when the UK’s North Sea gas production is in long-term decline and Norwegian gas production (the main source of gas imports) is predicted to peak around 2022. This means that increased reliance on gas would require either increased Russian imports (an unlikely option for geopolitical reasons), or, more likely, reliance on unconventional gas, especially hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling. There are already 3 active shale gas sites in the UK and a Freedom of Information request to The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed the government expects there to be approximately 17 sites by 2020 and around 30 to 35 sites by 2022.(https://bit.ly/2z2rmQO)  

+  Unconventional gas production is associated with significant leakage of methane – far more so than conventional gas production (https://bit.ly/2NkdGE5). Research published in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology suggests that a gas plant can become a bigger source of greenhouse gas emissions than a coal one if just 3% of the gas leaks into the atmosphere. (https://bit.ly/2u0hG3v). Leakage of methane in the production of gas for Drax would therefore significantly increase carbon emissions over and above the smokestack emissions of burning the gas.

+  The smokestack CO2 emissions from new gas units will exceed the longer-term average CO2 emissions per unit of electricity (which have been dropping rapidly due to greater wind and solar power use) and thus contribute to higher long-term UK CO2 emissions.

+  Drax’s Repower plan to burn large quantities of gas will hamper rather than help the U.K.’s transition to low carbon energy.  Drax argues that gas can be a useful ‘transition fuel’ between coal and renewable energy as the UK government phases out the burning of ‘unabated coal’ by 2025. The alternative to Drax’s Repower proposal will be the closure of the two coal power units, resulting in genuine and significant carbon reductions. Replacing coal with another fossil fuel cannot help us to decarbonise, particularly since Drax has said that repurposing two coal units to burn gas will “extend their operation into the 2030s.” As the ecosystem scientist, Professor Robert W Howarth, from Cornell University, states: “the only path forward is to reduce the use of all fossil fuels as quickly as possible. There is no bridge fuel, and switching from coal to shale gas is accelerating rather than slowing global warming.” (https://bit.ly/2AtUBeU)

I believe that, rather than being forced to pay for an unnecessary gas development which is bad for the climate, we should instead invest in genuinely renewable wind, wave and solar energy which can help us to meet our climate targets.

I urge you to take note of these concerns and refuse permission for Drax to start burning gas.

Yours sincerely,

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