The Open Veins of South Wales

Blogger Dragon Trailz, also known as Al Williams, writes about the environmental threats his home country of Wales is facing from opencast coal mining. Find out more about upcoming campaign actions against coal.

I wonder how many people in South Wales are aware that there are now three open cast coal mining planning projects in progress or appeal, across an east - west line that runs from Hirwaun to Blaenavon? This is in addition to Ffos-y-Fran, near Merthyr, which has been around for almost ten years and is the largest open cast coal mine in the UK - a project that was strongly opposed by local residents from the beginning.

The planning applications (from east to west) are at Tower Colliery, Nant Llesg and Varteg - all are at sites which were previously deep mined. These projects are very unpopular - local campaign group United Valleys Action Group (UVAG) oppose the Nant Llesg extension to Ffos-y-Fran and there is also strong resistance to the Varteg project to the east - the Tower planning application is relatively new. It’s alarming that these stories often do not make the Welsh national news and awareness of them and the consequences they bring, isn’t quite what it should be. The original application for the Nant Llesg mine was defeated at the local level last year, but Miller Argent who run the Ffos-y-Fran site, launched an appeal at the beginning of 2016 and UVAG, who thought they had won their fight against the mine, began to widen their campaign and since then have increased awareness across Wales and the UK with assistance from Friends of the Earth, both in Wales and England.

A backwards budget by a back-tracking government

The Chancellor today set out his intention to completely ignore the climate crisis - currently manifesting itself in record breaking temperatures - choosing instead to appease high emitters of the very carbon which must be kept in the ground in order to meet the government's promises made just three months ago in Paris.

Calling it a budget "fit for the future" (he used the phrase no less than six times) in which he talks about putting the "next generation first" (seven times) you would initially be forgiven for thinking that the Tories have finally seen the climate change catastrophe which is staring them in the face. Alas, this budget only reinforces their commitment to squeezing every last drop out of oil and gas fields and their idealogical war against energy convervation and renewables.

'Lobbying ban' for public-funded charities and even scientists

“There is nothing a government hates more than to be well informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult.”

This quote from John Maynard Keynes was used in a recent editorial in the BMJ arguing that the UK’s planned new anti-lobbying clause, by muzzling scientists will jeopardise evidence informed policy making in public health. The potential impacts are just as concerning for other areas including energy policy.

In the new clause all organisations in receipt of state grants would have to agree, as a very broad legal condition, not to use public money to influence MPs or political parties, attempt to influence legislation or regulatory action, or press for the renewal of contracts and grants.