Court ruling on Cuadrilla fracking injunction delayed

181011 Bob Dennett

Bob Dennett outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 11 October 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A campaigner will hear tomorrow whether the court injunction against fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool will continue.

Retired businessman, Bob Dennett, secured a temporary block last week (5 October 2018) on the start of fracking. He had submitted concerns to the court that local people would not be protected in an emergency.

This evening, a judge at the High Court in London delayed his ruling until noon tomorrow. Mr Justice Supperstone is also expected to rule on whether Mr Dennett can pursue a judicial review of emergency planning procedures by Lancashire County Council.

The packed court room heard that Cuadrilla had expected to start fracking tomorrow. Nathalie Lieven QC for the company said any delay would cost £94,000 a day. She said Cuadrilla needed to know by midday on Friday where it stood on fracking at Preston New Road.

But Marc Willers QC, for Mr Dennett, said:

“It is imperative that those operations should not commence until there are adequate and effective environmental and health and safety planning and emergency procedures in place.”

He called for the injunction to be kept in place for two weeks while the court considered the case.

Mr Dennett’s argument is that Lancashire County Council had failed to take into account key concerns when it did the risk assessment for Preston New Road. These included the connection of the site to the gas grid and whether there would be enough water to fight any fires.

He argued that the council had failed to inform local people about evacuation plans, as required by legislation. It had also failed, he said, to take a precautionary approach, given that Preston New Road would see the first high volume hydraulic fracturing in the UK since 2011.

Mr Willers told the court:

“[There is] a serious issue as to whether or not there is a proper safety regime in place that would cope with and ensure the safety of the local residents in the event of an emergency, in the event of a well blowout or in the event of a major gas leak.

“Cuadrilla as a responsible operator would no doubt not wish to operate in circumstances where it was aware that the risk assessment of the Preston New Road site was inadequate.”

He said attempts to “assuage concerns” of local councillors and local community representatives had not been successful. The community liaison group (CLG) for Preston New Road had been raising issues about emergency planning for a year, he said.

“CLG members expressed concerns that they were not aware of what would happen in the event on an incident at the Cuadrilla site.

“Residents are living in fear. There has been no disclosure to the local community about evacuation plans because of security concerns.”

He said the county council had  duty under the Civil Contingencies Act and Cabinet Office guidance to provide residents with information so that they could make informed decisions. The current lack of information had exacerbated genuine concerns, he said.

“The more information the public have the more prepared they are likely to be.”

The court heard that Lancashire County Council had assessed the site risk as medium. This meant it was covered by generic emergency planning, rather than a multi-agency site-specific plan.

Cuadrilla and Lancashire County Council argued that Mr Dennett’s case was not backed up by the evidence.

Ms Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said:

“The case is wholly without merit and is merely a device brought at the last possible moment to try to stop work at Preston New Road.”

She said Preston New Road had been under “long and extremely detailed regulatory scrutiny”.

Lancashire County Council had relied heavily on other agencies, such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), she said. The medium risk assessment was based on work carried out by the HSE.

It did not require individual evacuation plans, Ms Lieven said, which she described as “disproportionate” and “potentially give rise to wholly unnecessary public concern”.

She said:

“Any reason for gas leaks from the well, leading to potential fires, have been fully considered and controlled by the HSE.

“Any challenge to the HSE’s judgement is going to be difficult”.

Ms Lieven said the Environment Agency had visited the site on 16 occasions since 2017. The HSE and the EA had visited most recently on 3-4 October.

She said the risk assessment did not need to take into account the gas pipeline because that would not be connected to the grid until 2019.

A recent report by Costain, commissioned by Cuadrilla, concluded that any incident at Preston New Road would have “negligible consequences” beyond 380m from the well, Ms Lieven said.

She also argued that the injunction was “legally misconstrued” and should not be granted.

Cuadrilla could still frack at Preston New Road even if the judicial review was successful because hydraulic fracking consent had been granted by the Secretary of State, rather than Lancashire County Council.

Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, said the risk assessment was “based on robust specialist technical expertise”. He said

“There is not any evidence at all that this document is in any way irrational”.

He said Mr Dennett’s grounds for judicial review were “so weak that they do not disclose any serious issue to be tried”, which is necessary for the granting of an interim injunction.

He said the county council was required by the Civil Contingencies Act to maintain arrangements for dealing with emergencies but it was not required to publish them unless an emergency was likely.

“There is clearly embodied in the Act a large element of discretion.”

He said the council had published a summary of the risk in Lancashire, even though it had not published the generic risk assessment.

“This is not a ‘no publication’ case”.

Asked by the judge to define “sensitive receptors”, Mr Evans said they could include schools, which had been sent a briefing note about fracking and operations at Preston New Road.

Mr Evans said he thought the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should also be represented in the case.

Reporting from this hearing was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers

101 replies »

  1. “Mr Evans said he thought the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should also be represented in the case.”

    Yes — where is he? Hiding?

  2. Sad times for the antis as they are fully aware this is their last chance to keep their lies of impending doom alive.
    Am I correct in saying this is same judge that has been dealing with the UKs first wealth order? If so I hope he demonstrates as much common sense tomorrow as he has previously and throws out this nonsense.
    Why do we keep referring to this [edited by moderator] man as a “retired businessman”? Is it to somehow make us believe he is of greater importance than he really is? I can’t see anything of interest when conducting a background search other than he changed his mind when a previous crowdfund to become a Green MP failed so he switched to Labour.

      • Crem unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. You lot talk about individuals constantly so I’m more than entitled to do the same. We need to know who the individual is when they put themselves up as the poster person and this chaps prior credentials are misty, to be polite.

        • Wrong I call out individuals on here who are in a position to offer a retort if they choose to. You on the other hand clearly like to cast aspersions about those with anti fracking stances without them having an opportunity to reply. Snide behaviour.

  3. Maybe Bob Dennett just play this so that he can be seen in News coverage to raise his profile as an environmental activist for his political career as a Green politician.

  4. Fracking is
    A .horrible and inconvenient THING. UNFORTUNATELY this objectionable practice is called PROGRESS. It will ruin our
    Countryside and wreck our lives as we know them. Should NOT be allowed.

  5. Specsavers could be useful, refracktion!

    If someone is “represented” it does not require that individual to be present-hence the term “representative”! Take a look at the Brexit negotiations and see who is “representing” the 27.

    How about joining us in the real world? It really is not that difficult to cope, once you find your way around the English language. I believe FOE had the same problem, so perhaps it is an anti literacy epidemic? Or, maybe it is just the shortened version of that phrase-a.l.e?

  6. WASHINGTON—In a landmark report experts say fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the global warming crisis, new data published this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that the phenomenon is caused primarily by the actions of 7 billion key individuals.

    These several billion individuals, who IPCC officials confirmed are currently operating in 195 countries worldwide, are together responsible for what experts called the “lion’s share” of the devastating consequences of global warming affecting the entire planet.

    “Our research has proved conclusively that, year after year, the acceleration of the rate of global warming and the damage caused by this man-made acceleration can be clearly linked to 7 billion main culprits,” explained lead author Dr. John Bartlett, noting that many of these individuals have links to climate change going back nearly a century. “Worse, the significant majority of damage was done within the past two decades, when the consequences of climate change were widely known and yet these specific individuals did nothing to curb or amend their practices.”

    “Now that we’ve done the hard work of identifying the key players responsible for this crisis, we can move forward with holding them accountable,” Bartlett added. “And it is my opinion that we need to regulate these individuals swiftly and decisively before they do any more damage.”

    According to policy analysts, urgent regulation is needed in order to monitor and govern the behavior of these targeted individuals, who experts say collectively commit as much as 100 percent of violations to the environment each year.

    Researchers have isolated numerous instances of environmentally harmful activity committed by these 7 billion perpetrators in the past few decades alone, identifying practices such as using electric lights, shipping packages, traveling by car, traveling by air, buying clothes, washing clothes, using heat, using air conditioning, buying food, buying water, eating meat, commuting to work, shopping, exercising at the gym, disposing of waste, operating computers, operating televisions, operating other household electronic appliances, and showering—alarming activities that experts say show no signs of remitting.

    In addition, IPCC officials confirmed that billions of pounds per year in waste products can be traced to these 7 billion individuals alone.

    “We’re actually looking at a situation where a select group of individuals—7,125,985,886 of them, to be exact—are singlehandedly responsible for global warming and are refusing to do anything about it,” author and activist Dan Cregmann told reporters, noting that these culprits have a horrible track record of following recommended environmental guidelines and disclosing their total energy consumption. “Many of these offenders have of course pledged goals for fighting climate change and going green in their daily operations, but statistics show these proclamations have been largely ineffective and halfhearted at best.”

    At press time, IPCC officials confirmed that, since their report was released this morning, 153,007 more individuals had been added to the list of top contributors to global warming…

  7. Bill Nye’s take on it, back in 2015:

    Carbon nanotubes for resistance free excess electricity storage, compensating storage pistons, the future is bright for those not desperate to tie the world down in old inefficient technology.

    For a real energy secure and intelligent progress into a more sane renewable and energy storage technology, resistance is futile……

    and then of course on the other side of the coin, we have this:

    I am not sure if that constitutes balance? But its the best they have?

    I wonder if we can encourage Bill Nye to be our independent UK future renewable and storage energy commissioner?

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