High Court rules fracking can go ahead

Following the loss of a legal challenge from environmentalists, fracking is set to go ahead in North Yorkshire.

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing involves drilling into the earth, where a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is then injected at a high pressure. This allows the natural gas and oil to be released from the shale rocks and pass into a well.

The process has long been the subject of much debate with concerns in relation to its wider impact; controversy has stemmed from the potential problems arising from the chemicals used as well as the waste it leaves behind. As a result, local areas can be affected, with a belief that house prices could take a negative hit.  In 2011, fracking was suspended in the UK following earth tremors in Blackpool where drilling was taking place. Further plans to build new wells have also been more recently rejected.

However, now that this proposal has been approved in North Yorkshire, fracking is set to take place in Britain once again for the first time in five years.

Both Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale had contested the previous decision made by the Council, in which the tests for shale gas had been approved. The judicial review put forward by the environmentalist groups was based on two grounds. These were that the Council:

  • Had unlawfully not accounted for assessment of the material climate change impact arising from the production phase of the fracking
  • Had misdirected itself in law in that it did not require the Interested Party (the Third Energy UK Gas Limited) to provide a financial bond relating to any long-term impact arising from the fracking

However, in a High Court judgement made during December 2016, the Council’s original decision was upheld.

In regards to the fracking going ahead, the Council had imposed several conditions which Mrs Justice Lang stated afforded residents with a “considerable degree of protection”. These were:

  • The Financial Commitment – restoration scheme
  • An After-care scheme
  • The management of the restored land for a period of five years

Friends of the earth campaigner, Dona Hume, commented on the decision, stating: “The judge found that North Yorkshire councillors had assessed the impacts of climate change. But we know that climate change was barely mentioned at that crucial council meeting where the decision to allow fracking was taken, and more damningly, that councillors didn’t have the information about the total carbon emissions produced from the fracking project.”

The environmentalist group stated that it would not appeal the decision and was ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.

Welcoming the decision was Rasik Valand of Third Energy. The chief executive stated: “The permission places a great obligation on Third Energy to prove that we can carry out the test fracs in the same safe, discreet and environmentally sensitive way that we have conducted our gas exploration and energy generation activities over the past two decades.

“We are confident that we will prove to the local community that their elected representatives were right to grant this permission.”

The hydraulic fracturing was due to occur in 2016, but the judicial review meant they are now more likely to begin the process at some point during 2017.


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