Legal

Breaking: Legal challenge to Government oil and gas licence extension gets go-ahead

ben-dean

A campaigner against fracking has won the right to challenge the government’s decision to allow more time for shale gas drilling near his home.

The case could have implications for oil and gas operations in other parts of England

Ben Dean, from Cheshire, has argued that the variation of the terms of his local petroleum exploration and development licence (PEDL) was unlawful.

This lunchtime, Mrs Justice Lang, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, allowed the case to go to a judicial review.

She also ruled that Mr Dean’s costs would be limited under the Aarhus Convention to £5,000 if he lost.

The extension to PEDL189, granted on 30 June 2016, gave the licence holder, Dart Energy (West England) Ltd, another two years to drill and potentially to frack.

Mr Dean’s case is that then Energy Secretary did not have the power to grant this extension. This was opposed by lawyers for the government and the licence holder, Dart Energy (West England) Ltd, a subsidiary of IGas.

The permission to go to a full hearing could have implications for a number of other PEDL licence across England which were extended at the same time for similar reasons.

PEDL licences give exclusive right to an oil and gas company to explore for, or produce, hydrocarbons, subject to planning and environmental permissions.

PEDL189 was licensed in 2008 to Dart Energy. 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.

During this time, Dart Energy was required to drill 10 wells to a depth of 800m and three wells to a depth of 3,000m across 13 PEDL licence areas, including PEDL189. If the work programme was not completed the licence would normally be forfeit.

According to government data, only five of the 13 required wells were drilled during this time in these licences. But in June 2016, the Oil and Gas Authority, under the power of the Secretary of State, still extended the initial term for a second time to 2018.

As well as PEDL 189, the initial terms of 13 other licences were extended, 10 for two years and three for one year.

More details and reaction coming soon.

8 replies »

  1. Congratulations Ben, the text of this post makes interesting reading,in that:

    “PEDL licences give exclusive right to an oil and gas company to explore for, or produce, hydrocarbons, subject to planning and environmental permissions.

    PEDL189 was licensed in 2008 to Dart Energy. 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.

    During this time, Dart Energy was required to drill 10 wells to a depth of 800m and three wells to a depth of 3,000m across 13 PEDL licence areas, including PEDL189. If the work programme was not completed the licence would normally be forfeit.

    According to government data, only five of the 13 required wells were drilled during this time in these licences. But in June 2016, the Oil and Gas Authority, under the power of the Secretary of State, still extended the initial term for a second time to 2018.

    As well as PEDL 189, the initial terms of 13 other licences were extended, 10 for two years and three for one year.”

    We are informed so many times that there is no favoritism in granting licences to fracking exploration companies, however, the above indicated that every time a company fails to perform within the licence conditions, “the Oil and Gas Authority, under the power of the Secretary of State, still extended the initial term”. It seems that no matter how little the fracking companies actually do to fulfill a legal contract, the government step in and overturn the legal requirements in favour of the fracking companies.

    We see no evidence that such protection is afforded to the legal tax payers in this country in any way whatsoever, quite the opposite, opinion is ignored and prosecuted to prevent further opinion being voiced. Where is our democratic protection?

    Just who do this government work for? Us or them? The people who just want to protect their homes their food and water, and their health?Or private companies who hide their funds in off shore tax havens, show gross contempt for the people of this country, lie and avoid reference about pollution caused elsewhere by this process, and who are intent upon exploiting resources which climate change scientific opinion says to leave in the ground?
    If that is not an example of anti democratic partiality towards and in favour of the fracking industry, i dont know what is.

    • But Phil C, isn’t it fair to say that Dart has seen its progress impeded by campaigners? It’s a bit like Force Majeure in a contract – I’m sure it would have preferred to have delivered its committed work programme, it just hasn’t been able to through no real fault of its own. On that basis, it’s only reasonable that it’s licence be extended.

      • Well that’s an interesting attitude if your contract does not allow for contingences and unexpected costs, then its a pretty poor contract. Any normal reaction to that would be tough, you knew the potential situation you should have allowed for it. In fact I am sure that is the actual case. No what you did was run cap in hand to HMG who should have been protecting the tax payers interests and they bent over backwards, the usual Tory BOB stance in respect to tracking and they unlawfully extended your contract and the tax payer was, once again, suffered for it, both financially and democratically.
        That a bit more clear?

      • I think you will find that Cuadrilla have got behind through causing 50 seismic events including 2 earthquakes large enough for the DECC to demand a halt to any shale development.

        If they had not aroused suspicion by trying to avoid EIA by leasing 0.99 hectare sites , and if they had used 3D survey in the first place they may be in a different position.

        Completely their own fault. Now they want extensions to extensions because of their own technical failings and poor understanding of the UK planning system.

        No. That is not acceptable. It is a licence issued to maximise developments in an agreed time.

        If their own failings cause them to be unable to comply with the conditions which they accepted at time of issue, their licences should be withdrawn and made available to those who can work within the imposed conditions of a PEDL.

  2. I am absolutely delighted to see that you have won the right to a judicial review Ben! Wonderful news! Bless you & thank you from UK Protectors in Dorset!
    I have shared your news to Anti Fracking International facebook group & Frack News facebook page. From there to many other local groups!

  3. Just for a little balance, this is the point of view from the oil companies side on the issue of the protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota

    Never say i dont see both sides of the discussion.

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl7Kc2lSGiQ) (just remove the parentheses for the address)

    PS i apologise for some of the adult content language, i suggest you use a bleeper if you play this to your communities. Maybe you could censor it, that would leave you with about 3 seconds of video.

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