Anti-fracking campaigners take their fight to the High Court
November 22, 2016
RYEDALE campaigners are challenging one of the first planning applications to carry out fracking in the country.
Residents from Kirby Misperton joined forces with Friends of the Earth (FoE) at the High Court in London today in a bid to block a decision to allow hydraulic fracturing near their homes.
Fracking company Third Energy was granted permission by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) in May.
The Frack Free Ryedale campaigners, who have so far raised more than £9,000 to fund their application for judicial review, are accusing the local planning authority of failing properly to assess the climate change impact of extracting shale gas by fracking.
They and FoE also say the council is failing to secure long-term financial protection in the ”likely” event that fracking will cause environmental damage.
Reverend Jackie Cray, who lives in Kirby Misperton, said: ”The county council received 4,375 objections against the application and only 36 letters in favour, yet still approved the plans. We can’t call this democracy.”
Fellow campaigner David Davis added: “We are doing what we can with the legal system we have for the people of Ryedale. We are not green campaigners, just local people who are concerned about the effect fracking will have.”
David Wolfe QC, appearing for the residents and FoE, argued in court that the county council “misdirected itself in law” by concluding that it could not require Third Energy to provide a financial bond in relation to any long-term “legacy” environmental pollution arising from fracking.
The court was told that gas produced from the site, known as Kirby Misperton A (KMA), would be taken by underground pipeline to nearby Knapton power station.
It is the first planning permission granted in England for fracking on a production scale, as opposed to permissions for exploration, and permits fracking and gas production for nine years.
Mr Wolfe argued the council had failed to consider the impact of the “indirect, secondary or cumulative” emissions from shale gas burnt at Knapton on climate change.
Sasha White QC, representing NYCC, said the fundamental problem with Mr Wolfe’s submission was that the regulations did not require the Knapton emissions to be assessed in the context of the planning permission under challenge.
Mr White argued other permissions in the planning system and other regimes controlled the amount of emissions Knapton was allowed to produce “irrespective of what happens at KMA”.
He asked: “Why consider something already allowed?”
Mr White also said it could not be argued that no provision was being made for any long-term fracking “legacy”.
He said: “That will be a matter for the planning judgment of the defendants in the context of a detailed scheme that has yet to be approved.”
The hearing continues tomorrow (Wednesday).
Half of Scots back fracking ban after first imports arrive
November 22, 2016 by Kate Devlin
MORE than half of people support the current temporary ban on fracking in Scotland just months after the first imports of shale gas arrived on the country’s shores, according to a new opinion poll.
Fewer than a fifth of the 1,000 people questioned over the controversial issue are opposed to the ban on the process which sees natural gas extracted from the earth.
The Scottish Government has retained its moratorium announced in January last year, despite petro-chemical giant Ineos making the first shipments of the gas to Grangemouth in September, and plans a public consultation next year.
Opposition politicians said the BMG survey for The Herald showed ministers should ban fracking completely.
But the Scottish Government said it showed Scots back their decision it was determined to take a “cautious, evidence-led approach”.
Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrats energy spokesman, said: “This survey shows that the SNP should stop dragging their heels and ban fracking altogether.”
Opening up a new front of carbon-based energy production would do nothing to meet climate commitments, he added.
“While the indications are that the Scottish Government is heading towards a ban, they still remain nailed to the fence.
“If the SNP are serious about tackling climate change, ministers must join the Scottish Liberal Democrats in unequivocally ruling out fracking.”
Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s great to see a majority of Scots have seen through the PR spin of the fossil fuel industry and are in favour of a fracking ban.”
He urged Scottish ministers to “listen to the public and implement a ban on fracking as they have already done on underground coal gasification”.
The survey also found 20 per cent of Scots reject the idea that global warming is related to human action.
But the Scottish Government said ministers were determined to take a “cautious, evidence-led approach”.
The poll found also that support for gas exploration collapsed when the word “fracking” was mentioned.
The process sees water, sand and chemicals pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas.
However, the SNP Government has come under pressure to make a long-term decision after the Grangemouth refinery began importing US shale gas to Scotland in September.
Scottish ministers are to hold a public consultation next year.
The poll asked: “The Scottish Government currently has a temporary ban on fracking in Scotland. Do you support or oppose the continuation of the ban?”
BMG found that 54 per cent of Scots said that they supported a ban, 19 per cent were opposed, while the rest said that neither option fitted their opinion.
The poll, of 1,039 people in October, found SNP and Labour voters opposed fracking, while Conservatives backed it.
The SNP abstained from voting on the Fracking debate while Labour opposed it. Fact!
Spend fracking taxes on boosting green energy, Caroline Flint says
A fracking exploration drilling site, as an MP said money from a £1 billion shale gas wealth fund should be spent on energy efficiency projects
A £1 billion shale gas wealth fund should be spent on energy efficiency projects which will “stimulate growth, jobs and innovation”, a Labour MP has said.
Former shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said tax raised from fracking should not be “frittered away” on general spending but ring-fenced and used to give Britain a green energy boost.
Her comments, in an adjournment debate in the Commons, comes after the Government launched a consultation on how cash raised from the controversial energy source should be spent.
Ms Flint said the money should bankroll a “big picture idea” that would help transform the UK’s green credentials.
She said: “I believe the fund should be ring-fenced for a clear purpose – improving the UK’s energy efficiency, using the proceeds from a fossil fuel to reduce our future dependence on those same energy sources.”
She added: “Now is the time to think about the principles for such a fund, and how we can make sure it is not frittered away across government on different schemes that at the end of the day we can’t really see the power of good is provided for the nation.”
She urged ministers to take inspiration from Norway, which created a sovereign wealth fund with tax raised from its oil exploration that is now worth more than the oil itself.
Creating a similar fund for shale gas money could help wean Britain off fossil fuels in the long run, the MP added.
She said: “We could look forward to a day where we are not dependent on fossil fuels by reducing our long-term energy use”.
Money could be spent on refitting homes to make them energy efficient, creating jobs and growth while bringing down household energy bills.
And the process would help the UK reach its target to radically reduce carbon emissions as part of the effort to tackle global warming, she said.
“Let the shale wealth fund become a warm Britain fund.
“A fund that is a friend to those households that are yet to see the benefits of energy efficiency, a fund that foresees a low carbon Britain and contributes to that goal, a fund that creates jobs in every community – uniting politicians and the public for the common good.
“A fund which truly leaves a legacy.”
She warned that too often “the loudest voices” in local communities get to determine where money is spent and urged ministers to set a national strategy for the cash.
Treasury Minister Jane Ellison said the Government is committed to seeing the money channelled to the local communities where fracking is undertaken.
She said: “Specifically we want to ensure that those communities and regions that host shale activity will benefit directly from doing so, and I mean they should benefit beyond the boost to the local economy you would expect them to receive in any case from the development of this new industry.
“The Prime Minister has been very clear on this, local people must come first.”
The minister added: “A significant proportion of this is expected in the north, and that means the shale industry could play an important role in the economic development of parts of the Northern Powerhouse, helping to drive local growth, investment and jobs even further.”
New Government Rules Could Raise Cost of Legal Challenges to Fracking
As anti-fracking groups prepare to take legal action over recent shale gas decisions, the government has announced changes which could make future challenges more expensive, writes Ruth Hayhurst at Drill or Drop.
Lawyers and campaigners have warned that new rules revealed by the Ministry of Justice on 17 November could deter people who oppose decisions which they believe will have a significant impact on the environment.
A case against the approval of fracking by North Yorkshire County Council, which goes to the High Court in London on Tuesday, 22 November, will not be affected. Nor will challenges, announced last week, to decisions made by the Local Government Secretary on fracking in Lancashire.
But the law firm, Leigh Day, which represents two groups seeking a judicial review in the North Yorkshire case, has said the change will “create a climate of fear and uncertainty”.
The new rules have been opposed by the joint Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, and by Friends of the Earth, one of the parties seeking a judicial review this week.
Current Cap on Costs
The UK is required under European law to make sure that the costs of bringing certain environmental challenges is not “prohibitively expensive”.
The current rules ensure that people who apply for a judicial review on an environmental decision know how much they will have to pay if they lose. Since 2013, the costs have been capped at £5,000 for an individual or £10,000 for a group.
But under the new rules, this cap on costs could be varied. Applicants for a judicial review will have to provide financial information to the court. If they lose, the opposing side can apply to increase the cap if they think the applicant can afford to pay more.
The government said the proposals were designed, in part, to prevent claimants abusing the process of judicial review to delay or stop projects.
But Leigh Day said environmental cases make up less than one percent of the total number of judicial reviews lodged each year in 2013 and 2014. And compared with all cases, environmental judicial reviews have higher success rates.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said it did not believe the changes would prevent or discourage individuals or organisations from bringing meritorious challenges.
But only a handful of participants in a consultation on the proposals agreed with this conclusion. Of the 234 responses on this proposal, only four supported it.
‘Chilling Effect on Challenges’
According to the MOJ, some participants said the new rules would be “onerous, complex and have a chilling effect on challenges”. Others argued that the current cap on costs was not the total amount a claimant had to pay. They also had to find court fees and their own legal costs, which were often £25,000 or more.
Jamie Beagent, a partner in Leigh Day, said: “These proposals will create a climate of fear and uncertainty amongst those wishing to challenge projects imposed upon them and their environment.
“It will certainly make it harder for individuals to challenge projects of high public concern, including the new runway at Heathrow, the UK’s performance on air pollution, HS2 or the proposals for fracking across the UK.”
He added: “These proposals could be in place as soon as next month, making any challenge of this new enforced regime, through judicial review, difficult and potentially prohibitively expensive.”
The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, told The Guardian: “We know that high and uncertain costs have a chilling effect on the ability of ordinary citizens and civil society to hold the government to account on these issues. In this context, these proposals represent a huge threat to environmental justice and we will fight them every step of the way.”
The MOJ said the rules would be changed by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee of the House of Commons. The impact would be reviewed two years after the rules come into force.
An MOJ spokesperson said: “We want a justice system that works for everyone. The cost of bringing environmental challenges must not be prohibitively expensive, especially to those with limited means. Our proposals will also deter unmeritorious claims, which are expensive and delay vital infrastructure projects.”
The MOJ said the changes would be made as soon as parliamentary time allowed and would not apply retrospectively to cases already underway. The challenges undertaken against fracking decisions in North Yorkshire and Lancashire would not be affected, a spokesperson added.
This article has been cross-posted from Drill or Drop.
Photo: Ron F via Flickr | CC 2.0