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Policy update

The policy team has been active in environmental policy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and shale gas, writes Florence Bullough

Issues such as shale gas may grab headlines, but we also aim to communicate an understanding of the importance of geology to inform a wide range of interdisciplinary areas of policy-making. The Society responded to several consultations on environmental management in the first part of 2014, in which we highlighted the vital functions performed by the geosphere within wider natural systems.


Natural Resources Wales (NRW) launched a consultation on their corporate plan to which the Society responded. We supported their recognition of the importance of geodiversity and geosphere functions, and stressed the need to ensure that these considerations are fully applied in practice in a holistic approach to environmental management and ecosystem service delivery, rather than just focus on air, water and living things. The Society also reiterated its concern at the backlog of Geological Conservation Review sites that are awaiting designation as SSSIs (

The Society also responded to a Welsh Government consultation on the Environment Bill White Paper( ). Our response again emphasised the importance of the geosphere as a first-order control on ecosystems services and expressed concern that the abiotic elements of ecosystems are often undervalued in policy documents in comparison to biotic elements, and urged the Welsh Government to ensure that the forthcoming Environment Bill recognises the importance (and interconnectedness) of both. In both these responses, we highlighted the importance of retaining geoscience capacity and human capital following the creation of Natural Resources Wales, and the restructuring of policy functions this has entailed.

The Society also responded to the London Geodiversity Partnership, supporting their 2014-2018 geodiversity action plan for London and highlighting the work of our Geoconservation Committee.


The Shale UK 2014 conference, organised by Global Event Partners on behalf of the Society, took place in London on 4-5 March. It presented a state-of-the-art view of the geology of shale gas to a diverse audience of industry decision-makers, policy-makers, regulators, community representatives and others. A wide-ranging and engaging programme of talks over the two days of the conference featured leading experts in many relevant areas of geology from across industry, government and academia, including several from North America, providing an opportunity to learn from experience there. As well as drawing on expertise on resource exploration and production from the hydrocarbons industry, the conference also featured hydrogeologists, engineering specialists and regulators, who presented a geological view of the potential impacts and environmental management of shale gas extraction. Feedback on the conference was very positive – we succeeded in our aim of delivering something different to other shale gas conferences, of real value to our audience.

We also responded, together with the PESGB, to a House of Lords Inquiry into the ‘Economic Impact on UK Energy Policy of Shale Gas and Oil’ ( in addition to the recent DECC consultation on the ‘Environmental Report for further onshore oil and gas licensing’(


In December, as part of the Society’s ongoing work on radioactive waste disposal policy, we responded to a DECC consultation on the ‘Review of the Siting Process for a Geological Disposal Facility’ (, and have also attended stakeholder meetings in connection with this review.

Following the launch of our major report on ‘Geology for Society’ at the Southern Wales Regional Group’s event ‘Geology and the Welsh Economy’ (reported in the April Geoscientist), the report is continuing to attract considerable interest, both in the UK and more widely.

In April, we hosted the third in a series of conferences held jointly with AAPG on CCS entitled ‘Geological Carbon Storage: Meeting the Global Challenge’, a two-day programme of research and field experience relating to the development of geological storage. This concluded with discussion on wider economic, commercial and policy issues, at which conference delegates were joined by parliamentarians, officials, and representatives of environmental NGOs and other scientific societies.