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.
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.”