Anti-fracking campaigner pursues Supreme Court challenge in bid to overturn Government decision to approve fracking in Lancashire

Friday 12 January 2018

Anti-fracking campaigner Gayzer Frackman today announced his intention to take his fight against the fracking industry to the Supreme Court, following the Court of Appeal’s decision to turn down the legal challenge against the decision by the Secretary of State permitting hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Lancashire.

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If the appeal to the Supreme Court is successful, the Government will have to reconsider its decision to approve fracking at the Preston New Road site and may be forced to strengthen its regulatory regime and review other grants of permission for fracking elsewhere in the country.

Mr Frackman’s legal challenge alleges two serious flaws in the grant of permission to frack at Preston New Road: (1) the Secretary of State failed to require proper environmental assessment of the greenhouse gas impacts of the operations and (2) the Secretary of State failed to apply the precautionary principle despite widespread scientific uncertainty about the negative health impacts of fracking. The precautionary principle means planning permission should not be granted where there is a real likelihood of harm to public health if a risk materialises, but it is impossible to know whether the risk will occur because of scientific uncertainty.

Gayzer Frackman said: “We will now fight on and seek to take our case to the Supreme Court. The government has signed up to the Paris Agreement and so must be held accountable for supporting the fracking industry and the consequences for increased carbon emissions. We also hope that the precautionary principle will be properly applied, which is part of our case, because of the potentially devastating impacts of fracking on pollution and our health.”

“Having witnessed Cuadrilla’s desperate dash to drill over the last year at Preston New Road, we now want to re-double our efforts to stop this toxic industry. I would like to thank our legal team for presenting such a strong case and our supporters who all work so hard to help drive our fight forward.”

The four ‘exploratory’ wells by Cuadrilla at the site represent the biggest fracking operation to be given the go-ahead in the UK to date. Round-the-clock protests have hampered Cuadrilla’s work.

Estelle Dehon, environmental law barrister at Cornerstone Barristers, who represented Mr Frackman, commented: “Given the serious impact of climate change, it is imperative that the government requires developers to make a proper assessment of the greenhouse gas impacts of development. This is especially important where exploration seeks to pave the way for a new form of fossil fuel to be exploited. There is no logic in granting permission for shale gas exploration if the production phase will emit so much carbon and methane that its environmental impact is unacceptable.

Marc Willers QC from Garden Court Chambers, who also represented Mr Frackman, said: “This is the first case in which a court has had to consider whether planning permission can be granted for shale gas exploration wells without the need to take account of the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from shale gas production at the same wells."

"It is important that this issue is considered by the Supreme Court at a time when the shale gas industry is still in its infancy. We intend to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court so that it can do so.”

Dr Paul Stookes, Solicitor-Advocate at Richard Buxton Environmental Law solicitors representing Mr Frackman added: “The reality is that the UK has breached fundamental EU laws relating to environmental impact assessment and the precautionary principle in order to permit shale gas production under the disguise of ‘exploration’. It is clear now that fracking is an unpopular and wholly uncertain way to extract an unwanted fossil fuel. It wholly contradicts the government’s latest commitment to hold our environment in trust for the next generation. If the UK is genuine about its 25 year environment plan and clean growth strategy then it must abandon the folly of fracking and focus on supporting and developing renewable energy.”

Marc Willers QC is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Environmental and Planning Law Team and Public Law Team.

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