Breaking: Court clears the way for first UK frack for seven years – Cuadrilla says it starts tomorrow

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Fracking equipment ready for use at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 5 October 2018. Photo: Danny Vc Llew

Cuadrilla has said it plans to start fracking tomorrow (13 October 2018) at its site near Blackpool after a judge at the High Court refused to extend an injunction against the operation.

In a ruling this afternoon, Sir Michael Supperstone also dismissed an application for a judicial review of emergency planning procedures at the site.

The decision clears the way for the first high volume hydraulic fracturing in the UK since 2011 and the first UK frack of a horizontal shale gas well.

But campaigners who brought the case said immediately they would apply to overturn the ruling at the Court of Appeal.

The only likely block on fracking tomorrow will be high winds and rain from Storm Callum that could delay the operation until Monday.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said in a statement after the ruling:

“We are delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned. We are now commencing the final operational phase to evaluate the commercial potential for a new source of indigenous natural gas in Lancashire.”

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Bob Dennett outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 12 October 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

But Fylde retired businessman, Bob Dennett, who brought the case against Lancashire County Council, said:

“We have been advised there are two clear errors in the determination of the judge that leaves the way open for us to take the case to the Court of Appeal. We remain defiant. This started in Lancashire. We are going to finish it in Lancashire.”

The injunction was issued last Friday when Mr Dennett submitted court papers in which he said he feared the county council’s emergency plans would not protect local residents if there was an incident at the site.

His case was the council had not adequately assessed the risk from the site or communicated appropriately with local people about what would happen in an emergency.

But Sir Michael said today the case was not supported by the evidence before the court. In his ruling he said:

“I am satisfied that the negative risks have been properly considered by the appropriate regulatory bodies.”

The court had heard that the Preston New Road site has been assessed by the council as medium risk, which meant there was no need for a site-specific multi-agency emergency plan.The

Sir Michael said:

“I am satisfied that the assessment of the risk is medium has been properly reached on the evidence.”

He also said the council was not required to publish its procedures. He said he accepted the council’s case that the Civil Contingencies Act gave officers considerable discretion about what it showed to the public. He said:

“The evidence before this court does not support the contention that the council is in breach of its duty to the public.”

He said the council had published a brochure about emergency planning in the county and there was a website for residents about how to prepare for emergencies.

Sir Michael refused the application to continue the injunction or to challenge by judicial review the emergency planning procedures.

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Helen Chuntso outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 12 October 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Helen Chuntso, a researcher who has investigated the procedures for Preston New Road said outside the court that the judge had interpreted the law incorrectly.

“The judge’s ruling puts him directly in opposition to cabinet office guidance on the statutory duty to publish information about emergency plans.”

She said the general brochure made no reference to hydraulic fracturing or what the local community should do in the event of an explosion or blow out at Preston New Road. She added:

“We will continue to fight the effects of fracking on this community. We will take this to the Court of Appeal”.

Ms Chuntso added that the campaigners would pursue the case on the grounds of “a previously undisclosed and questionable risk assessment” and the council’s failure to consult and publish its emergency plans.

Yesterday, the court heard that any delay in fracking would cost Cuadrilla £94,000 a day. Mr Egan said today the first results from fracking are expected in about three months. He said in a statement:

“If commercially recoverable this [shale gas] will displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK.

“The hydraulic fracturing process will take approximately three months to complete for both horizontal exploration wells. Cuadrilla will then test the flow of natural gas from those two wells with initial results expected in the New Year.”

Planning rules limit fracking at Preston New Road to 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturday.

Cuadrilla is planning to frack about 45 sections of the well. Each section is 15-50m long and will take about 90 minutes. The first stage is furthers from the pad and successive fracks will work backwards along the well.

More reaction

Shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey

“It’s a scandal that the government has been allowed to force through fracking at any cost.”

Frack Free Lancashire

“The court decision is hugely disappointing. Our local councillors have been demanding information about emergency procedures for months now and fracking is about to begin at the site.

“The case was all about the failure of Lancashire County Council to provide adequate Emergency Evacuation procedures, and have public consultation and communication into Civil Contingency plans in the event of an explosion or gas leak at the Preston New Road fracking site.

“Given that an emergency situation at the site could impact health, threaten natural resources, or require evacuation, and particularly with the close proximity of a number of schools, it is unthinkable that Lancashire County Council or our government should have considered allowing Cuadrilla to go ahead with fracking without the local community being fully aware of what would happen in the event of an accident on site.

“The recent pipeline explosion in British Columbia resulted in an evacuation zone extending over several kilometres – there were just 100 people in that area: in the equivalent zone near the PNR site there would be thousands if not tens of thousands

“Cuadrilla can now carry on regardless, ignoring the urgent warning issued this week by the IPCC about the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but all of the fracking companies need to know that fracking will never get a foothold in the UK because they will meet resistance at every stage of their projects.”

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party

“A new fossil fuel frontier has been opened in Britain. In the same week the UN warned we have little more than a decade to tackle climate change, this ruling has paved the way for the first fracking in seven years.

“To stand any chance of hitting climate targets we must keep all fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Fracking is a dirty, dangerous industry and I stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave residents standing up for the safety of their community today.

“We are deeply disappointed by this ruling, but the anti-fracking movement is stronger than ever and we will not give up this fight until Britain is frack free. It’s time the Government ditched its reckless dash for gas and invested instead in a renewable revolution of solar, wind and tidal power.”

Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor

“I want to thank campaigners for their efforts in the High Court; I share their disappointment with the outcome. But we must remember that, ultimately, it is the government’s full-throated and blind support for fracking, despite all the evidence, that has led us to this point. It is a sad day for democracy, for residents and for our planet. It proves we cannot trust the Tories on climate change.”

“This week, climate scientists from across the globe pleaded with world leaders to take unprecedented action to divest from fossil fuels and decarbonise their economies to avert the very worst effects of a climate breakdown that is already in progress [2]. Today, a government-backed bid to revive a dangerous and destructive fracking industry in England, against the wishes of the local community and local authority, has been given the green light.”

“For all their warm words and greenwashing, the Tories have been conspiring with their friends in the filthy fossil fuel industry all along. Ministers’ climate denial is insidious and disastrous.”

“Britain under the Tories is a genuinely terrifying place. The ignorance of evidence and the pursuit of climate-destructive policies at any cost imperils any future we hope to build for the generations to come. History will not judge the Tories kindly. Greens will continue standing on the frontlines of the fight to protect our planet and keep supporting all of those brave heroes like the Frack Free Four who have put their lives and liberty on the line to do the same”

Lee Petts, chair at Lancashire For Shale

“We’re very pleased that the High Court has sensibly rejected this last-minute challenge from campaigners. The industry’s expert regulators at the Health & Safety Executive and Environment Agency are satisfied with emergency response arrangements, and I think it’s time people trusted them to look after us.”

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

Categories: Legal

83 replies »

  1. HOOOOOOOOORRRAAAAAYYYYYY got a nice bottle of bubbly in the fridge for this very occasion.

    The end of the myths surrounding fracking are now weeks away. The weak minded politicians and easily swayed members of the public will start to realise they’ve been truly led up the garden path by the ba*my army.

    Congratulations to all the sensible people on this board.

      • Sorry Sher you’re def living in a fairytale, probably a nice person in person but not a practical person.
        What a waste of time for you lot as we can now quickly debunk years of myths through hardened facts.
        We are aware you’ll never give up moaning and groaning but I’d suggest you find a new hobby.

        • Of course GBK, we will see. The seven years of facts so far are not supporting your practically imperfect persona…

          By the time the wind has blown the climate change around,
          I’ll show you if I can,
          No matter what the circumstance for one thing you’re renowned,
          Your character is frack, crack, spin,
          Your’re practically imperfect in every way 😉

          No hobby here call-centre, a way of life.

  2. “Sir Jim-please increase output. Sherwulfe will soon require a new keyboard.”

    Thanks for your congratulations GBK. Make sure your bubbly doesn’t fall. There is a whole broken mess of the green ones at the bottom of the wall.

    • Martin – when I was a kid we talked about Nero fiddling while Rome burned. You have managed to change the image in my head to Martin collywibbling whilst the planet burns. Congratulations!

    • I think this narrows down the somewhat over estimated 7 billion contributors to just a few “contributors more guilty than others” doesnt it?

      Lets see, i count four plus the inevitable multiple ID clones?

      Hardly a surprise result considering the sheer weight of money and ego thrown at the issue pushing for irreversible screaming climate change isnt it?

      I think this will be a list of such “contributors” to write in the books for the next rising species to wonder at millions of years hence as they sort through the dust and bones and seas of plastic?

      They will perhaps name this The Great Plasticocene Extinction Age, part of The Oiliogasocene Age and wonder why an entire species could be quite that stupid as to allow themselves to become extinct by the actions of a few greedy selfish individuals, whose own bones are there amongst all the others?

      Better write them on copper or carbon fibre and hide them in a deep cave somewhere until the roasting heat subsides? its going to be awful quiet up here for a long while when the echoes of screaming triumphalism dies away and gets gets drowned in the howling burning toxic wind….

    • ‘There is a whole broken mess of the green ones at the bottom of the wall.; -courtesy of MC, you really MUST recycle…

  3. The UK claims to be a leader on Climate Change, because it produced a load of papers called ‘Climate Change Act 2008’. To continue to exploit fossil fuels, especially unconventional oil & gas, goes against the long-term goals of the act in reducing the UK’s greenhouse emissions. Something our courts, seem to have ignored or overlooked. Whilst in Holland, the situation is different:

    • Patrick, why not crowdfund a trip for you and your mates to a country that does need to up its game in terms of coal reliance or just plain poor environmental practice. I’d suggest you visit China where your solar panels are made so you can get a taste of what you’re really up against.

    • An extract from that piece:

      The Dutch government cannot hide behind other countries’ emissions. It has an independent duty to reduce emissions from its own territory.”

      In other words stop importing energy from other Countries and just quoting your own emissions. Pretty much like the U.K importing Gas from Qatar, Norway, Russia, U.S.A etc. We the U.K must take responsibility for the Energy WE use and be accountable for it…

  4. No proof of insurance cover. No practiced emergency/evacuation plan.

    Doesn’t seem there’s anything sensible about this decision!

  5. A disappointing verdict, but given the prevailing anti-fracking attitude of the judiciary – who coincidentally received a 33% pay rise from the government today – not entirely surprising. It seems that local people have no right to know what safety procedures are in place if there is a serious incident, which will only harden opposition to fracking in Lancashire and across the country.

  6. Time to avoid driving on Preston New Road, the M55 etc! Would avoid outdoor activities anywhere near Wrea Green, Wesham, Weeton etc. for some months now.
    Don’t want our children turning into data for the government scientific community!
    Certainly don’t drink tapwater as half our supplies comes from the River Wyre and it’s tributaries!

    • You certainly need to avoid PNR on 20th October as the road will be closed by protestors. A few are expected to test the Cuadrilla Injunction – but I doubt Jonathan Bartley will risk himself heading to HMP…..

    • Peter
      To whom do you address your advice to re water? And what alternative do you suggest.

      I would advise those worried about their water supply to check out the quality on their post code checker ( see United Utilities web site ) and to take heart that the water supplied to your tap is checked for problems.

      Good to know your provider is checking on it for you.

      However, if you have a supply from elsewhere, your own well … say, then things might be different and people may wish they were on the mains.

      Plus, there is some groundwater monitoring going on at the site, so some information can be gleaned from there before people rush to buy bottled water ( bundled up in p,Aston no doubt.).

      Plus, given your worries re the affect of fracking on tourism, if no one uses the M55 due to your warning, and it turns out there is no risk … are you liable?

  7. “evaluate the commercial potential” says Mr Egan. Hmm. Already drilled and fiddled about in 4 deep wells in Lancashire. Problems in all and no commercial prospects in any.

    • What flow rate do you think will indicate commerciality Muriel? 1mmscfd, 5mmscfd, 10mmscfd, 20mmscfd? PH flowed under 1mmscfd, clearly not commercial but not fully tested / stimulated.

      “no commercial prospects in any”?? Cuadrilla should have checked with you before they drilled the two PNR wells and saved themselves / centrica £66mm.

  8. A great day for environmentalists in the UK. More domestic gas means less coal/wood pellets, and less imported gas. Clears the air and leads to better health outcomes for the nation. More jobs and wealth won’t hurt either. And more gas peaking gen means there’s a better backup infrastructure for randomly intermittent renewable power sources which will be part of the long term solution. Everyone wins!

  9. Absolutely nothing to worry about then Muriel!

    Perhaps you could let refracktion know as he is playing the other game. Mind you he indicates he can see into the future, so he could have the edge.

    • I thought it was you who liked to play at pretending to be Mystic Martin LOL. Come to think of it your pronouncements here do have a lot in common with the incomprehensible predictions of your average crystal gazer.

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