A CAMPAIGN to prevent extraction of coal gas beneath the North Sea held its first public meeting.
About 60 people gathered in the main function room of Dawdon Miners’ Welfare Hall.
Maureen James, joint founder of the Seaham Action Group opposed to Underground Coal Gasification, told the audience: “It is early days for the campaign, but no time should be lost.
“We only started on this about six weeks ago, so the turnout tonight is quite good.
“Hopefully this will be the first of many meetings.
“I have been trying hard to find out what is going to happen to our coastline, but it’s difficult.
“There is no transparency. If this was such a clean and green form of energy, why all the secrecy?”
The meeting was told licences have been granted for coastlines around the country, including the stretch from Sunderland to Hartlepool.
Campaigners believe the two companies, Five Quarter and Cluff Natural Resources, will still need to get their plans passed by the local authorities.
Facilities will be built on land to drive bore holes into the sea.
Air and steam will be pumped underground to oxidise the coal, enabling the resulting gases to be harvested.
One member of the audience said: “This process has been known about for 150 years, but has never been able to be made to work safely.”
Concerns were also expressed about pumping large amounts of water underground which, it was claimed, could become contaminated and find its way into the drinking water supply.
The two companies involved accuse the campaigners of being alarmist.
The chairman of Five Quarters, Dr Harry Bradbury, says he has set aside the first week of December to answer emailed questions from concerned members of the public. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Seaham campaign can be contacted onlineat http://frack-off.org.uk/local-group/seaham-action-group-acg/