Regulation

Climate change to be considered at Ineos legal challenge to Scottish fracking ban

Scottish Parliament 170531 Friends of the Earth Scotland

Photo: Friends of the Earth Scotland

The court considering a challenge to the Scottish Government’s ban on fracking has been told the policy is required to meet climate change commitments.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has been given permission to intervene in the case and has submitted evidence on the environmental impacts of fracking.

Ineos Upstream, the largest holder of UK shale licences, and Reach Coal Seam Gas are seeking to overturn the indefinite moratorium on fracking and unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland.

They say the Scottish Government policy not to support fracking applications has adversely affected their business interests and breached their human rights. They are seeking damages.

This is thought to be the first time in an environmental judicial review that a third party has been given permission to intervene.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, said today:

“We are getting involved in INEOS’s judicial review of the fracking ban in order to put forward crucial climate change arguments in support of the ban that otherwise would not have been heard.

“Our intervention argues that the Scottish Government is required to ban fracking so as to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, to meet legally binding climate targets.”

The organisation said it had made a written submission to the court providing information on EU, Scottish and UK environmental law, national and international obligations on climate change and it said key environmental issues may not have been considered in court.

A procedural hearing in the case was held today. The main hearing is due to begin at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday 8 May. It is scheduled to last four days.

Scottish fracking ban

Energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, addressing the Scottish Parliament on the policy in October 2017

The Scottish Government announced in October 2017 that the moratorium on fracking and other unconventional oil and gas developments would remain in place indefinitely. This followed a research programme and public consultation commissioned by the Scottish Government. The decision was endorsed by the Scottish Parliament three weeks later.

Mary Church said:

“We are confident that the process to ban fracking was robust and fair, and we hope that the courts will find against Ineos.

“A two-year process looked at mountains of scientific evidence that spoke of the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our environment, climate and people’s health.

“There is overwhelming support for the ban from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood.

“A judicial review is very limited in terms of what it looks at, and without our intervention these huge environmental considerations would have not been heard in this legal process, despite the considerable environmental impacts of fracking.”

The organisation is being supported by the English law firm, Leigh Day. Solicitor Carol Day said:

“We are delighted the court has granted permission for FoE Scotland to intervene in this important public interest case, which has huge environmental considerations for Scotland.

“This is a landmark decision under Scottish law and illustrates the significance and potential impact of this judicial review.  We believe this is the first intervention on an environmental issue and one of only a handful to have been approved under the new judicial review rules.

“FoE Scotland has submitted strong evidence on the environmental and health impacts implications of fracking. We hope the court will take these points on board during the course of the hearing and uphold the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking.”

33 replies »

  1. Good. High time Climate Change was taken seriously in these discussions. Looking forward to seeing how INEOS defends the claim that the moratorium has ‘breached its Human Rights’.

    • Excellent, at last the most fundamental issue of climate change is being addressed in its proper context.This is an indication that common sense is prevailing at last and this blinkered industry will have to account for itself.

  2. Will be interested to see how the Scottish Government will defend the oil and gas industry within Scottish waters reference climate change!

    Or are they willing to sacrifice that to support their little deal with the Greens? Or is imported gas producing lower emissions than domestic gas? (No, the opposite.) So, perhaps their argument will be that Grangemouth should be closed!

    All looks pretty straight forward-for Ruth D.

  3. Don,t see how climate change can make any difference as its a global thing not just confined to the uk. & given that its global are you going to Ban imported Oil & gas too. ? As it makes no difference where it is produced the affect on climate is going to be the same. but no its actually worse if your importing it as you have to transport it half way round the world.

    • Excellent point gasman, however the government have other ideas…..
      Still you missed another option; maximise renewables and save the gas reserves?

    • “it makes no difference where it is produced” … but it makes a huge difference how it it produced. Fracking being the most environmentally impactful method of all, with risks to ground, air, water pollution, flaring, venting and rogue emissions, uncontrollable migrating seeps along undetectable faults … I could go on. All this besides mounting evidence for damaging health impacts and other legacy issues.

      Fracking a landscape is a viral process with barely controllable risks and no definite end point. Much cleaner to tap into large remaining reservoirs while working on the ultimate replacement for natural gas.

  4. Ah the exceptionally dodgy ‘Leigh Day’ check out their past dealings in Iraq! No smoke without fire and all that.
    The climate change argument is always going to lose as gas is cleaner than coal and we are going to be reliant on it for a long long time yet. No matter how many turbines you build we still need gas.
    It’s an easy argument to prove that producing homegrown energy is greener than importing it.

    • “as gas is cleaner than coal”
      This has categorically been proven to be incorrect for fracked gas. A Stanford University study of US frack sites in Dec 2016 showed a methane leakage rate of 4-17%, averaging 11% across the industry. Even though this is profit gone up in smoke as it were, the industry doesn’t really care.
      The same study showed even the urban gas infrastructure within cities leaks at around 10%.
      Since then, satellite imagery showing methane spikes of 2500-3000ppb occur regularly where the methyl hydrates are melting under the ocean {brought on by man-made emissions warming the seas}, and the same level of spikes over the USA where fracking occurs.
      It is calculated that for fracked gas to be cleaner than coal, it has to have leakage rates of 3% or less. So, yes, gas from conventional wells may be less unclean than coal, but fracked gas certainly isn’t.

      For CH4 emission maps, see for example:
      https://arctic-news.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/how-much-warmer-is-it-now.html

      And anyway, the UN IPCC, for all it’s conservatism, has said years ago that 80% of known gas/oil reserves have to be left unburnt in the ground, if we are to have a chance of avoiding the worst of climate change, so how can anyone justify looking for new reserves?

      With the Atlantic ocean circulation slowing, both Greenland and Antarctic ice melting faster than modelled, much from underneath, methyl hydrates on seabeds defrosting, and Arctic summer ice due to disappear, it is apparent that runaway climate change has already begun.

      Ineos and their ilk challenging governments just because they might have lost some income in a future alternative history is going to look rather silly, petty and childish in the years to come.

    • Ah the ‘exceptionally dodgy’ INEOS and their dealings in Switzerland; grants for yachts; get out of taxation card – no money for NHS; plastic waste in the sea, toxins on our food; no liar without gas, up up up in a puff of toxic smoke.

      In case you haven’t been listening to the Brexit narrative, we are a trading nation; that means imports and exports; we have sufficient reserves of ‘homegrown’ off shore NSG and the wind around our ‘homegrown’ coasts and the sun beating down on our ‘homegrown’ roofs need to be utilized more fully; gas should be a minor addition not the main source of energy generation; once it’s lit it’s gone…

  5. Please prove it then GBH. How is criss-crossing the countryside with new gas fields less leaky than importing piped gas from, say, the huge existing gas fields that already exist . The massive Azeeri Shah Deniz field will be piping gas into Europe within the next coupe of years.

  6. Transport, dear PhilipP, transport!

    Oil/gas needs PUMPING via a pipeline-the longer it is the more energy required. Ships are not too difficult to understand either-take a look underneath-propellers equals propulsion.

    Same as those importing their vegetables, via air freight, from far afield rather than grow their own.

    I hope FOE are a little more aware of such things, otherwise they will find INEOS unforgiving-after all, they run their own ships to transport energy!

    • Thats not a proof. GBH said it was easy to prove. Numbers please. There can be large ‘burps’ of methane released between drilling and completion and flaring. Hence the new interest in top down measurements … show me the data. We’re talking thousands of new well if the UK is getting a whole new OG unconventional infrastructure.

  7. YOU are talking thousands of new wells PhilipP. Prove it-numbers please (no speculation allowed.)

    No emissions from wells over the horizon?

    Hope you enjoyed your French Beans air freighted from Kenya that took no more energy to get to the UK than mine grown in my own garden.

    The parallel universe of the anti.

    If that is the sort of argument that will be put by FOE, they may be in for a shock.

    How much energy to build and operate an ocean going gas tanker?

    • You’ve seen the planned numbers many times Martin. Don’t tell me the commercial interests and the government ‘pro’ strategies are banking on a failed initiative that would see a thousand or less wells – which would barely make dent on on overall energy supplies and imagined (independent) energy security. That would make a nonsense of the strategy overall. 4000 is the most quoted figure. Yes, as you’ve finally managed to figure out that the outcomes could be anywhere between (effectively) zero and several thousand productive wells. All those outcomes are speculation of course just as you would speculate that one successful test well means that they all might be successful. The entire drive is a badly conceived vision removing focus and incentives from a far healthier, more environmentally friendly and more sustainable energy future.

    • There is only one ‘parallel universe’ Martin and that’s in your nursery….
      Play time is over; adult time now. Night night.

  8. We MUST rapidly reduce extraction and burning of fossil fuels to meet legally binding Paris targets, which means NOT developing new gas and oil fields, and phasing out extraction of existing ones. Anyway, fracking is not viable.

  9. Shame both Sherwulfe and PhilipP are immediately contradicted by Ian!

    Really balanced approach you guys operate. When you can agree amongst yourselves, some of the two thirds may take you seriously.

    A parallel universe filled with disjointed, and disconnected, opinions and speculation. If it looks like a playground, sounds like a playground, it is a playground!

    By the way Ian, your statement is incorrect. You ignore the fact that the UK is a major importer of oil and gas, and will be going forward. Replacement of one source with another will not impact the Paris targets. The reduction in transport emissions will actually help. Just calculate how the increase in oil output in USA as against shipping it from M.East has had a positive impact (other than for the shipping companies.) Frequently ignored by some to support their own agenda, but nothing new there. Plus, because that vulnerable prior supply chain is removed, $6 billion can be saved on reducing maintaining a huge Strategic Oil Reserve. Maybe some of that will be available for investment elsewhere, even “alternatives”? Has the Mid East continued to pump out the same amount of oil? No, because that would drop the price dramatically, so they have reduced their output.

    • If that’s your idea of divide and rule Martin you’ll need to try harder. Not starting new gas fields, particularly of the sprawling onshore fracking variety, along with steadily reducing our dependence on fossil fuels generally, will head the UK in the right direction for the Paris targets.

      Replacing one source with a dirtier one does make a difference but in the wrong direction.

      • Agreed Phillip; but that’s not the anti anti’s agenda; they just want to carry on polluting the planet, much like parents who refuse to give up smoking round their kids….

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