Yesterday it was the one of the UK’s biggest conservation charities. Today it was a government. For the second day running, INEOS has won the right to bring a legal case to court.
Following the grant of leave to pursue the National Trust over land access for seismic testing, the company has now won the right to bring a judicial review against the Scottish Government.
INEOS, the UK’s biggest shale gas company, has joined Reach Coal Seam Gas in challenging the Scottish Government’s decision, announced last year, to not support the development of unconventional oil and gas, including fracking.
The companies also sought to sue the Scottish Government for damages for an alleged breach of their human rights and to challenge the 2015 decision on a temporary moratorium.
In a legal opinion, Lord Pentland, a judge at the Court of Sessions, gave permission to the two companies to take their case to a judicial review. The case is expected to be heard in May.
INEOS and Reach both argued that their business interests had been “adversely affected” by the Scottish Government decisions.
The Scottish Government argued that the companies’ case on the 2015 decision was time-barred because the three-month limit for a bringing a challenge had long expired. INEOS argued that the two decisions could not properly be separated.
In his ruling, Lord Pentland said:
“there may be some possible merit in the proposition that the 2015 and 2017 decisions are closely interlinked and that this is significant in the wider context of the issues that arise in the case.”
He granted permission for the companies’ whole case to go ahead.
“Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”
The Scottish Government announced on 3 October 2017 that it would not support unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. The Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, told the Scottish Parliament:
“Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.”
He said more than 60,000 people had responded to a public consultation. 99% of them had opposed fracking. He said:
“In those communities that would be most affected there is no social licence for unconventional oil and gas to be taken forward at this time.
“And the research we have conducted does not provide a strong enough basis from which to adequately address those communities’ concerns.”
He also said he was concerned about insufficient evidence on health impacts and he drew attention to the conclusion in a report by KPMG that under its central scenario unconventional oil and gas could represent 0.1% of Scottish GDP.
At the time, INEOS Operations Director, Tom Pickering, responded to the decision saying it “beggars belief”. He said:
“It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making.
“The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.”
Later that month, the Scottish Parliament backed what was, in effect, a ban on fracking.
- We’ll update this post with more detail and reaction when we get it.