Legal

Friends of the Earth begins High Court action against fracking company’s protest injunction

Manchester 170315

Anti-fracking protesters outside Manchester Civil Justice Centre, 15 March 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Friends of the Earth has launched legal proceedings to try to force Cuadrilla to “substantially reduce” the scale of its injunction against anti-fracking protests.

An initial hearing will take place at the High Court in Manchester on Friday (28 June 2019).

This is expected to follow a trial, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), of three anti-fracking protesters alleged to have breached Cuadrilla’s injunction at its shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool (DrillOrDrop article)

The Friends of the Earth action follows a landmark case at the Court of Appeal earlier this year. This ruled that key parts of a similar injunction granted to Ineos were unlawful and could have a chilling effect on peaceful protest.

In a judgement issued in April, three law lords struck out restrictions in the Ineos injunction on:

  • Persons unknown “combining together” to unlawfully cause loss to Ineos
  • Protesting against Ineos suppliers and contractors
  • Protesting on the public highway, using tactics such as slow walking
190403 Katie de Kauwe DoD

Katie de Kauwe, in-house lawyer at Friends of the Earth, outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the ruling against the Ineos injunction, 3 April 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The Cuadrilla injunction had many similar features and language to the original Ineos order, about which the Court of Appeal had complained.

Friends of the Earth, which intervened in the Ineos case, informed Cuadrilla last month that its injunction was also unlawful. In a letter before action, the organisation said Cuadrilla’s order should be revised to meet the standards set by the Court of Appeal in the Ineos ruling.

The letter said:

“The terms of your clients’ injunction suffer from a lack of clarity and prohibit conduct which goes beyond the economic torts which underpin them.”

Cuadrilla refused to make changes to its injunction, Friends of the Earth said today. As a result, an application had been filed with the High Court to vary the terms of the order.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Political Affairs, Dave Timms said:

“Injunctions such as that granted to Cuadrilla, raise very significant human rights issues and are a sinister attempt to use the law to stop peaceful protest against the fracking industry.

“They create a climate of fear where people taking peaceful protest are uncertain about whether their actions could breach the often vague and uncertain terms of the injunction, with the risk of imprisonment or having their assets seized if they do.

“Rather than being dealt with by the criminal courts, they put decisions about public order policing into the hands of the oil and gas industry with their army of corporate lawyers and private security firms.

“The Court of Appeal rightly ordered significant reductions to Ineos’ draconian and wide-ranging injunction, to protect human rights. Cuadrilla must now abide by this judgement.”

Friends of the Earth’s challenge will begin with a directions hearing at the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester.

The Cuadrilla injunction is one of five similar orders granted since 2017 to onshore oil and gas companies against certain protest activity by “persons unknown”. The injunctions cover 16 sites in 10 counties.

DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to respond to the Friends of the Earth legal action. We’ll update this article with any comment from the company. It declined to comment on its legal action against the three protesters which begins tomorrow.

13 replies »

    • It’s not often I agree with you Martin, but it’s impossible not too on this occasion, as FoE only put their heads above the parapet when the odds of success are stacked in their favour, so they can then put the begging bowl out afterwards. Always been all talk have FoE and very little action in all the years I’ve been involved with Anti-fracking. There must be a change at the top of their legal department, that works for humanity at last!

      • Hi Joseph
        I appreciate you have your reasons for your comments but it was the FoE legal team and planning specialists who worked with our community group on challenging all planning applications that Cuadrilla applied for at their Becconsall site.
        There was a minefield of evolving material from the industry in the early days and it was FoE teams that guided us through. Things might have changed and you obviously have had a different experience but for us their help was invaluable.
        Regardless of my comments this current challenge is another positive step to help stop the erosion of our democratic right to protest.

        • Hi John
          I’m more than aware of the work FoE have done in communities, like you explain above,. However, my issue is that they have never been involved with the protest side of the movement. Actually, they’ve been quite against slow walking and other forms of direct action. Back in January 2014 I witnessed first hand their executives from all four corners of the UK turn their backs on local people protesting at Barton Moss. That approach has continued ever since and now because I was successful in getting to the Court of Appeal they are now showing the public a false face, that is very concerning.

          So your right it is a positive challenge but not one they should be making, It should’ve been left to grassroots activists. They have no right to bully their way in without first speaking with those who have done all the work to get this far.

          However, like i said last night, they know they can’t lose in case or the funds they will beg for afterwards.

    • I presume pro frackers are pleased that they have the freedom to roam the British countryside. A right only given after mass protest and jailing of protestors.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_trespass_of_Kinder_Scout

      More facts from the industry showing Shale is a ponzi scheme. Those with years of experience and no ‘gold standards’ to follow are losing billions.

      I doubt UK start up companies know something the Americans don’t.

      https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/06/23/former-shale-gas-ceo-says-shale-revolution-has-been-disaster-drillers-investors.

      • Yep the industry is good as finished thankfully John, the only people interested in keeping it going in the press now is the climate change movement (NGOs) they more government than no though!
        Not many investors left to con out of their lifetime earnings either your right, the ponzi is good as finished too.

      • John – if you bothered to read the latter article or understand the subject you might get to understand why the UK could be quite different to the USA

        • JP’s on repeat Judith……

          Meanwhile global coal continues in earnest – despite the UK leading by example and elimininating coal from our power generation. I never did believe in this “doing our bit” and “leading by example”. All it does is make us less competitive, kill off our industry and transfer our emissions and contribution to climate change abroad. But this is what Enemies of Industry (FOE) and Greenpeas appear to want.

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/25/g20-nations-triple-coal-power-subsidies-climate-crisis

          “G20 nations have almost tripled the subsidies they give to coal-fired power plants in recent years, despite the urgent need to cut the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis.

          The bloc of major economies pledged a decade ago to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies.

          The figures, published in a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and others, show that Japan is one of the biggest financial supporters of coal, despite the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, having said in September: “Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations … We must take more robust actions and reduce the use of fossil fuels.” The annual G20 meeting begins in Japan on Friday.”

  1. Well it seems that the Enemies of the Earth are still trotting out their usual anti anti propaganda against the FOE (which makes them EOTFOE – Enemies Of The Friends of the Earth or EOE for short) and Greenpeace for nothing more than bitterness and bile against anyone who dares to stand up to the fossil fuel industry arrogance and incompetence and contempt for everything but profit. The fact that Greenpeace and the Friends Of the Earth protect people and the environment at a time when we are faced with extinction and destruction of the ecology on Earth.

    No change there then….

    This is from Damian Kahya of Unearthed:

    “Week-long heat-wave set to hit Europe:”

    “‘Hell is coming’: week-long heatwave begins across Europe
    Temperatures could hit 40C from Spain to Switzerland, with authorities urging children and older people to stay indoors.
    Authorities have urged children and older people to stay indoors and issued severe warnings against dehydration and heatstroke as an unprecedented week-long heatwave begins its advance across continental Europe. Scientists have said last year’s heatwave, which led to increased mortality rates, a dramatic decline in crop yields, the shutdown of nuclear power plants and wildfires inside the Arctic Circle, was linked to burning fossil fuels.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/24/hell-is-coming-week-long-heatwave-begins-across-europe

    “US presidential candidate – Jay Inslee – Proposes phasing out fossil fuels: It is a lot more popular to talk about building things e.g. wind turbines, than banning something so fundamental to the US economy so as Vox says “this is going to make some people mad”. The plan would scrap fossil fuel subsidies, almost ban fracking, put a price on carbon, reject new fossil fuel infrastructure e.g. pipelines and make extractors more accountable. The news comes as a new report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) finds G20 nations have actually tripled subsidies for coal power in recent years.”

    “Jay Inslee has a radical plan to phase out fossil fuel production in the US
    This is going to make some people mad.”

    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/24/18715163/jay-inslee-climate-plan-phase-out-fossil-fuels

    “UK pushes tax hike on… solar panels and batteries: In a slightly bizarre move the UK treasury is introducing the tax on systems deemed key to a de-carbonised grid at the same time as it legislates to go zero carbon by 2050. The government is also pressing ahead with Heathrow, fracking and oil exploration in the North Sea. Home coal supplies will continue to be taxed at 5%. ”

    What is curious about this, is that the Gov.uk excuse is that EU rules say no reduction in VAT even if it is for renewable energy, and yet we are (not) about to leave the EU on All Hallows Eve 31st October 2019, but of course that ignores the fact that the Defence Union was agreed by Theresa May and Boris Karl….sorry Boris Johnson two years ago and that is irreversible. UK defence is now irrevocably combined with France and the EU. So brexit (with a small “b”) will be in name only.

    “HMRC pushes steep VAT increase for new solar-battery systems
    Treasury proposes rise from 5% to 20%, while the tax on coal will stay at lower rate”

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/hmrc-pushes-massive-vat-increase-for-new-solar-battery-systems

    Continued on next post because there are too many links for one post.

    • Continued from the above post:

      “The survival of the natural world upon which humanity depends hangs in the balance, the new chair of the global scientific body for biodiversity tells The Guardian. “If I look at my generation, the people who are running the companies and countries and society in general, I don’t know if we are going to be able at this point in time to make extreme transformative changes, because we love to do the things we way we always do things,” Hernandez said. “We are in our comfort zone and it is very difficult to change. If we do not, then I am afraid the next 50 years are going to be very dramatic for us.” Sadly, some of that generation also seem to love drama.”

      “Survival of natural world is in balance, says wildlife chief
      Damian Carrington Environment editor
      Ana María Hernández says shifting society out of ‘comfort zone’ is difficult, but young people are inspiring”

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/24/survival-of-natural-world-is-in-balance-says-wildlife-chief

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

      “Fossil fuel industry giants such as ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are maintaining a huge presence at global climate discussions, working to undermine scientific consensus and slow policy progress, according to the Climate Investigations Center (CIC). Their report, covered in Bloomberg, claims that fossil fuel trade associations have sent more than 6,400 delegates to climate talks since 1995.”

      “The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Quietly Undermining Global Climate Talks
      Delegates from major oil companies have influenced international accords for decades.”

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-24/the-fossil-fuel-industry-is-quietly-undermining-global-climate-talks

      Without Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth, we probably not even hear of these things, the Fake Lamestream Assinine Media Empire (FLAME) being so censored compromised and redacted as it is, so the Enemies of The Earth attitude is one of slamming the stable door shut after the four horsemen have all ready bolted?

  2. Slow walking may have been removed from the injunction but it is still an arrestable offence as the idiots at West Newton are finding out despite shouting about it being legal and lawful.

    • Whether you or the police like it or not, pedestrians, cyclists, a horse rider or someone pushing a pram is allowed to use the public highway, despite being slower moving than a vehicle. Being arrested is not the same as being convicted. Many arrests are carried out simply to get people removed from the area for a time and later result in No Charge or an acquittal.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

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