A legal challenge to restrictions on protests outside oil sites in southern England has prompted conflicting statements from an oil company and campaigners.
Six women had been due to go to the Court of Appeal next month over an injunction granted to the exploration company, UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG).
This morning, UKOG tweeted that the appeal had been abandoned and indicated that the injunction remained “in full force and effect”.
Update: LATEST NEWS::Protesters withdraw appeal against wide-ranging UKOG injunction. Appeal has been abandoned and will remain in full force and effect.
— UKOG (@UKOGlistedonAIM) May 24, 2019
But the campaigners, who live near UKOG sites, described the company’s statements as “misleading” and “threatening”. Their appeal had not yet been withdrawn, they said, and UKOG had made concessions.
The UKOG injunction was granted by the High Court on 3 September 2018. It had similarities to an order secured by the shale gas company, Ineos, a year earlier.
Two parts of the Ineos injunction were successfully challenged at the Court of Appeal, in a ruling made last month (3 April 2019). Three law lords struck out the sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking, climbing onto vehicles and blocking the road. They also removed the sections on protests against the supply chain.
Today, a UKOG spokesperson told DrillOrDrop:
“None of the Ineos [appeal] ruling has applied to the UKOG injunction.
“We are now considering going for costs against the campaigners and Friends of the Earth”.
The spokesperson also said the “whole appeal” against UKOG had been withdrawn.
In a statement this evening, the women challengers responded:
“UKOG’s statement is inaccurate and threatening.
“The onshore oil and gas/fracking industry has already lost on all the important issues in the Court of Appeal in the Ineos case. UKOG knows this but they have apparent endless resources to sink into litigation however unmeritorious and unjust their case is. For a large company to stoop to such threats against concerned environmental campaigners and local residents is low even by their standards and is exactly the sort of behaviour that has the chilling effect on lawful protest and campaigning the Court of Appeal was so concerned about in the Ineos appeal.
“UKOG is wrong in stating that the appeal has been withdrawn although we intend to do so given that the points of principle that we fought UKOG on have already succeeded in the Ineos case.
“It is also wrong to say now that the Ineos judgment does not affect them. They have admitted in correspondence that it does impact their injunction and have proposed changes to it in light of the Ineos judgment.”
The women said they would continue their legal challenge:
“We will go back to the High Court not only so that the UKOG injunction can be properly cut back in line with the Ineos judgment but so that the Court can decide on the facts.
“We are confident that the Court will recognise and vindicate the lawfulness and legitimacy of our rights to oppose the danger and damage caused to the climate, the environment and our local communities of fracking and other unconventional fossil fuel extraction.
“UKOG may misrepresent the true position and this might give false confidence to their investors. But they are on shaky ground and our fight goes on – we expect the UKOG injunction (and others on the same draconian model like those obtained by Angus Energy, Cuadrilla and I-Gas) to be remade in line with Ineos.”
Friends of the Earth, which participated in the original UKOG injunction case, declined to comment this evening.
DrillOrDrop has invited UKOG to comment further.