A campaigner against fracking began a legal challenge today over the government’s decision to allow more time for gas drilling near his home in Cheshire.
Benjamin Dean has applied to the High Court for permission to bring a judicial review of the extension of the first term of the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence, PEDL189, around Chester.
The extension, granted on June 30 2016, gave the licence holder another two years to drill, and potentially frack.
DrillOrDrop understands that papers were served in the past hour on IGas Energy PLC, the parent company of the licence holder, and last week on the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
Mr Dean, a member of Frack Free Cheshire, alleges that the Secretary of State did not have the power to grant the variation in the licence.
If the case goes to a full hearing it has implications for a number of other PEDL licences across England that were extended at the same time for similar reasons.
Mr Dean said today:
“I have only just become aware of the full background to the variation of the oil and gas licence where I live and I am advised the particular variation is not within the powers of the Secretary of State. So I am seeking the Court’s permission for a Judicial Review of that decision.
“It seems that the Secretary of State has extended a number of other licences in a similar way, so I think it is important that the court resolves whether the extension in my case was lawful.”.
Details on PEDL189
PEDL licences give exclusive right to an oil and gas company to explore for hydrocarbons, subject to planning and environmental permissions.
PEDL189 was licensed to Dart Energy (West England) Ltd in 2008. Under the conditions of the licence, the initial term, during which exploration is carried out, should have ended after five years in 2013.
The government varied the condition in 2013 to add another three years to the initial term of PEDL189.
Information acquired by Mr Dean under a Freedom of Information request, revealed that Dart Energy was required to complete the work programme by the end of the initial term of the licence would expire. The work programme required the licence holder to drill 10 wells to a depth of 800m and three wells to a depth of 3,000m. The wells could be drilled in 13 exploration licences, including PEDL189, across England. A well in Lincolnshire, (Broxholme 1) and another in Cheshire West and Chester (Castleton) could not be counted towards the work programme.
According to government data, five wells have been drilled from 2008-2014, in the licence areas listed in the work programme. They were Woodfarm (2008), Lesters Lane and Wingginton-1 (2011) and Churton and Lound-1 (2014).
On 30 June, the then Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, extended the initial term of PEDL189 again, this time for two years to 2018.
As in 2013, the second term – intended for appraisal and development – was shortened. Under the latest variation, the second term will last for one year, from 2018-2019.
Other licences extensions
Government data confirms that, as well as PEDL189, the Secretary of State extended the initial terms of other licence areas in England to give additional time to meet the work programmes.
Three PEDLs had a one-year extension. These were: PEDL224, 241 and 253.
Other were extended for two years for the same reasons. They included: PEDL164, 204, 214, 215, 216, 217, 233, 234, 235 and 254.
What happens next?
In Mr Dean’s case, a judge will decide whether it should go to a judicial review in the High Court.
Mr Dean said this morning:
“I will not be making any further comment until the Court makes a decision whether to grant permission for a Judicial Review.”
He is represented by David Wolfe QC and Friends of the Earth’s Rights & Justice Centre.
- DrillOrDrop understands that a challenge to the extension of PEDL234 in West Sussex has been dropped.
OGA spreadsheet (Excel) of PEDL licence changes 30_June_2016_licence_changesv1.1