CAMPAIGNERS on both sides of the Atlantic are condemning bosses of the petrochemical giant Ineos for profiting from what they described as highly destructive shale gas extraction in Pennsylvania.

Almost 10,000 have wells have been drilled there with a devastating effect on local communities and the environment. One of the companies supplying Ineos with ethane – Range Resources – has been fined $4.15 million (£3.1m) for environmental pollution.

And, as a tanker loaded with ethane prepares to dock in Grangemouth, Broad Alliance – a global coalition of communities opposed to such oil and gas development – has issued a plea from Pennsylvania: “Please don’t accept these shipments of fracked liquid gas… Americans are being sacrificed by having this production near their homes, schools and farms. Thousands of violations have been uncovered, showing that our air and water has been polluted by the process of extraction and gas production.”

Murdo Fraser: Fracking could help secure the future of Scotland

The Scottish Government has a moratorium in place on fracking development and opposition is continuing to mount.

Writing in The National, Professors Alex Russell and Peter Strachan, two of Scotland’s foremost energy experts, warn: “More North Sea jobs will disappear and, more importantly, untold social damage will be inflicted on countries which try to copy the US fracking gamble, unless a halt is called to onshore fracking.

“Scotland should set the moral example for others to follow. Renewables and only renewables should be the long-term energy fuel in Scotland.”

Mary Church, from Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES), said: “It is completely unacceptable to attempt to prop up Ineos’s petrochemicals plants on the back of human suffering and environmental destruction across the Atlantic. The fact that Scottish public money is tied up in this project is disgraceful.

“If [Ineos boss] Jim Ratcliffe was really concerned about the future of the Grangemouth plant and its workers he would be planning for its transition to a low carbon model.”

At the Labour Party conference in Liverpool yesterday, there was a surprise announcement that a future Labour government would ban fracking.

Shadow international trade minister Barry Gardiner won loud applause when he attacked the Government’s policy on promoting shale gas.

His pledge to ban fracking was welcomed by environmental campaigners, but was described as “madness” by the GMB union. Gary Smith, the union’s Scotland secretary, said the UK will be dependent on gas for decades. He added: “We have to confront the fact that we’ll be buying gas from hangmen, henchmen and head-choppers. We don’t think that’s ethical.”

Gardiner told the conference: “There are technical problems with fracking, and they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome.

“The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.”

However, Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, the onshore oil and gas trade body, said: “Imports of gas as LNG (liquefied natural gas) are 15 per cent more carbon intensive than locally produced shale gas.

“If we want to maintain the right of the general public to access heat and power securely, manage climate change, create UK-based jobs then we need to develop renewables, nuclear and natural gas from shale.”

Ineos benefited from millions of pounds of public money in grant and loan funding to help build a storage tank for the fracked ethane at Grangemouth. It also wants to frack for shale gas in the central belt of Scotland and large parts of Northern England.

Ron Gulla, a former resident of Hickory, Pennsylvania signed a lease for fracking on his land in 2002. He said: “I’ve witnessed first-hand how the fracking industry has brought permanent damage across the Pennsylvania region, polluted our air, land and water and is destroying our livelihoods.

“Those living near drilling, infrastructure or waste sites have suffered water contamination, spills, wastewater dumping, gas leaks, and multiple health impacts.

“My property and life have been destroyed by this industry. I don’t know how the harm the fracking industry has caused can ever be corrected or how these injured places will get back their clean water. We must never lose sight of the fact that water is more important than gas.”

Jolly jaunt for journos laid on around visit

JOURNALISTS are no strangers to public relations sweeteners, but Swiss petrochemical giant Ineos is pulling out all the stops for fracking with a tanker full of gas due to arrive at Grangemouth today.

Last night, the company took an invited group of hacks out to dinner at the upmarket Wedgwood restaurant in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, before they spent the night at the four-star Apex Hotel in Waterloo Place.

This morning, they were expected to have breakfast on a boat in the Firth of Forth, before meeting an Ineos gas tanker with the first cargo of ethane from US fracking fields destined for Grangemouth.

Both boats were expected to sail together under the Forth Bridge.

The journalists will then be taken ashore and driven to a press conference with Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe and other senior executives.

Once they have had their lunchtime scoff and witnessed the tanker arriving at the lock in Grangemouth, they will be taken back to Edinburgh, with one group going directly to the airport to fly home.

The event has been organised by Mediazoo, a PR company based at Imperial Wharf in London.

It comes as reports are widely circulating that one of the US fracking companies that will supply Ineos with ethane – Range Resources – has been fined $4.15 million (£3.1m) for pollution in Pennsylvania.

Ineos is likely to restate its claim that being able to source its gas from fracking in Scotland would be better for it in the future.

However, opposition to that plan is widespread among communities and environmentalists, and fracking is still subject to a moratorium that has been imposed by the Scottish Government.