Friends of the Earth is going to the High Court this morning to challenge a key consent which allows Cuadrilla to drill and frack for shale gas near Blackpool.
The organisation is seeking a judicial review of the environmental permit, issued by the Environment Agency (EA) for the Preston New Road site.
Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA failed in its legal duty to promote the use of “best available techniques” in the treatment of the flowback fluid.
Flowback is what comes back up the well after high pressure pumping of fracking fluid. It is a major form of waste from fracking that can either be reused or taken off site for treatment at a specialist waste facility. Cuadrilla’s permit application estimated that 22,000m3 of flowback would be generated from fracking at Preston New Road, assuming that 40% of the fluid returned.
The company’s waste management plan, a key document in the permit application, said flow back would be reused wherever possible. At the end of the fracking process. The flowback would be accumulated on site as a waste and removed off site for treatment and disposal.
Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA should have considered the use of electrocoagulation. This is a technique, which, the organisation says, has the potential to clean the flowback, allow it to be reused and reduce demand for fresh water. Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA refused to consider it.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said:
“All along, the government stated that gold standard regulation would make fracking ok, but we believe our case, and the reality of what’s happening at Preston New Road, shows the opposite.
“They should be putting in place the best possible regulation to ensure that people, and the environment are protected.
“How can the government be considering rolling fracking out across the country, when it can’t be properly regulated at even one site? Isn’t it time the government gives up on fracking and backs renewables instead.”
Today’s case, before Mr Justice Supperstone, is a “rolled-up” hearing. This means the judge will deal with both the permission for the judicial review to go ahead and the substantive arguments. It is due to begin at 10.30am at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in central London. The ruling is expected in a few weeks.