Campaigner seeks legal challenge over ownership change of fracking firm Cuadrilla

pnr Cuadrilla Resources

Fracking operation at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

A government agency has been accused of acting unlawfully in the way it dealt with the change of ownership of the fracking firm, Cuadrilla.

Anti-fracking campaigner, Bob Dennett, is raising money for a High Court challenge to the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA).  He has argued that the OGA failed in its duty to scrutinise the acquisition of the increased stake in Cuadrilla by the Australian mining group, A J Lucas, in February 2020.

He also alleged that Cuadrilla and A J Lucas failed in their duty to notify the OGA about the change of control of the company.

A J Lucas almost doubled its stake in Cuadrilla Resources when it acquired shares held by Riverstone, a New York-based private equity firm (DrillOrDrop report). The deal took A J Lucas’s holding from 47.6% to 93%.

In a crowd-funding appeal, launched this morning, Mr Dennett said the acquisition constituted a “significant change of control” under the regulations.

He said he was concerned that the lack of scrutiny by the OGA could leave taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire:

“Without adequate government scrutiny, companies may spend all their resources drilling and fracking in the quest for profits and then go bust, leaving taxpayers with the bill.”

This is the second time campaigners have sought to challenge the OGA over licence transfers.

“Breach of regulations”

Mr Dennett said the 2014 Petroleum Licensing (Exploration and Production (Landward Areas) Regulations required the holder of an oil and gas licence to get consent from the OGA if ultimate control changed.

But a freedom of information response revealed that the OGA did not have any information on an application for change of control in this case. Nor did the OGA have information on any financial viability or resilience tests it carried out on A J Lucas.

Mr Dennett said:

“There can be no doubt that this transaction amounts to a significant change of control and the operators have failed in their duty to notify the OGA of the change.

“The OGA have similarly failed in their duty, as the regulatory body, to scrutinise the takeover of Cuadrilla by A J Lucas and therefore I believe that the OGA, A J Lucas and Cuadrilla have acted unlawfully.”

He said if the case went to court and the judges ruled in his favour, the case could result in the OGA revoking Cuadrilla’s exploration licences. This could include the licence for the firm’s fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool.

Mr Dennett said:

“Without adequate financial assurance, the environmental mess that is left behind when fracking is over can linger and worsen, as the Government tries to sort out whether it can force related companies (like the foreign parent company here) to pay the costs.

“We must hold the OGA to account to carry out its legal duty to protect taxpayers and the environment.”

He added:

“This decision will also help crystallise who is responsible for the decommissioning when a licence is revoked or an operator goes bust.

“Experts have warned that the Government is not paying enough attention to whether companies will be able to meet their clean-up costs, and that taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill if the OGA does not act prudently to ensure that there are adequate assurances that these costs will be met. For de-commissioning Preston New Road this will be many millions of pounds.”

Mr Dennett is seeking to raise £7,500 to cover initial legal costs to lodge the case at the High Court. Further funds would be necessary if the case went to a full judicial review hearing, he said.

  • His legal team (Marc Willers QC at Garden Court Chambers, Estelle Dehon at Cornerstone Barristers, and instructing solicitor Matthew McFeeley at Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law) is representing another anti-fracking campaigner in a similar case. Eddie Thornton has been granted a High Court hearing for a judicial review of the OGA’s handling of the transfer of Third Energy to York Energy, an affiliate of a US company. (DrillOrDrop report)

36 replies »

  1. People choose whether to pay into crowdfunding appeals or not, it’s free will and it is their money whether you think it’s wasted or not..

    • Not quite £200,000,000 though, for a sparrows fart of gas now is it. Good luck to both Eddie and Bob.

    • Quite right, dc.

      So, when the exploration companies pay their lawyers to obtain injunctions there will be no outcries against money being used to pervert democracy?

      Yes, a lot of money is wasted. However, there is money that stands a reasonable chance of producing a positive outcome and then there is that which doesn’t. Bit like the young lady I heard about locally who spent £200 on a tattoo of her deceased bunny, and took so much time off work grieving-her first job- that she had to be fired. She wasn’t worried but her employer is now having to advertise for a new apprentice, which will cost him dear as he normally offers this job to school leavers who will be a little thin on the ground in March!

      I would hope people with spare cash could find there are some more important areas to fund currently. Bunny tattoos and Mr. Dennett would not be high on my list. Both in the March hare category.

      Having noticed another case where costs were awarded to the exploration company, who actually picks up that tab? Mr. Dennett, the “crowd”, or a new “crowd”?? Not a trick question, just interested.

  2. Raises questions at Singleton when IGas took over the 6 Well Site c2016(?).

    Friends have been Campaigning for Years that any new Consent MUST include ring-fenced funding for site restoration including capping and on-going monitoring.

    Thank you, Philip Maber

  3. A pound raised is a pound lost, taking a government agency to court with OTHER people’s money!?! The taxpayer funds the government, if not there is no government funding. This is then redirected from schools, help provide funding for public services such as the NHS, education and the welfare system, as well as investment in public projects, such as roads, rail and housing.

    Fine if you are contributing to the government coffers, (as US the taxpayers do), if not you are fighting pound for pound and the law company’s are paid £££ every time…

    • I’m sure the government can print some more money, really the finances of the UK appears to be a bigger ponzi scheme than even fracking. Maybe fracking was simply an entertaining perverse amusement to the global elite as they distracted the population into arguing about it whilst the bigger picture is to instigate a global Orwellian control after crashing world economies.

  4. These ponzi scheming companies must be challenged. They flout the law at every opportunity and ride roughshod over our democracy to knowingly and wilfully destroy our beautiful planet all at the taxpayers expense. Thank you Bob and Eddie for tenacity in bringing them justice. #untilwewin

    • Hi, denbycotswold, richard parker and Suzie Mizon. Apart from bizarrely fixated “Bunny tattoos” and “Hare Brained” “Mad March Hare” apocryphal fixations that only serve to obscure the issue. Lets have a little fun, remember fun? Emulating the style of the Bunny fixated posts shall we?
      Well its Sunday 29th March 2020, and its the first “Spring Forward” lockdown Sunday in 2020. And still no fracking.

      It is however, interesting that Donald trump has just announced that he is nationalising US Federal Bank? (Was “The Fed”, too “Well Fed? Stole too many pop tarts perhaps, and just ready for the Red Queen Trump to say: “Off With Their Fed!!”

      Well that must have scared the frack out of some very dodgy financial operations. That effectively puts Donald Trump in the position of a dictator in the USA, The Power and the Money all in one persons little white hands. Apparently Donald Trump has plans to use that to prop up all those “Hare Brained” schemes for fracking in the USA that are messily haemorrhaging dollars and pollution like the inevitable demise of those battery farmed White Rabbits. Mark of The Beast tattoos obligatory.

      So will we be seeing Dumpty Numpty Boris Johnson try to nationalise The Bank Of England (the Red Queens private bank) in a similar manner? Or is Dumpty Numpty Boris Johnson ready for a fall? Will all the Queens children and all the Queens men even want to put Dumpty Numty together again?

      Are all the bankster ponzi schemes falling like flies in a White Rabbit Hat coup, or are they leaping and cavorting in joy like Mad March Hares at the Mad Hatters Spring Forward Tea Party?

      Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Fracker,
      How we wonder what you’re at:
      Down Below the world you try
      Like to betray, so you lie.

      “For if one drinks too much from a bottle marked “poison,” it’s almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later.” – Lewis Carroll.

      Just how far down this financially insane Bunny Rabbit Hole do we want to go? The Beast System Barcode Tattoos obligatory .

      Curiouser and Curiouser.

      That was fun!

      Have a Great Lockdown Sunday with….?

      • Well, that’s what you get when you confuse your red diesel with vegetable oil. Obviously needs better labelling, as the issue was so obscure. LOL.
        Sunday lunch, but not as most know it!

        Not too many lies seen on this site, fortunately, but there are exceptions-and they are indeed great fun-and revealing.

        Good job I can spend a bit more time in my greenhouse, producing a continuous supply of Little Gems-well away from bunnies. Others can pot away, their Phyllo carpus -also known as “Fairchild’s Folly”- for its failure to perform as expected!

        Meanwhile, we will see which industries are seen as worthy of propping up around the world. Oil and gas? Oh yes. No problem. Underway. Others may not be so “worthy,” and may disappear, or be set back many years.

        That will be fun. For some.

        And now, a clap for the farmers. Still out there looking after our food supplies for the coming year whilst twerps moan in the Supermarkets that the “fresh” French Beans are not in stock, without any thought to how that happens in UK in March-with, or without, a pandemic.

          • Meanwhile back in the real world. And rather than one hand clapping….i think i spelled that right? There are much more practical things to do. If you are mobile, hale and hearty and you want to actually do something practical. Talk to your local support group, foodbank, GP and pharmacy, preferably by phone. Because until the government sort out their home deliveries for essential items and prescriptions, that could take weeks or months, the Pharmacies are asking for able bodied volunteers to pick up and distribute prescriptions in particular. You will need approval and checks to do so and be able to provide identity if you are requested to stop and explain why you are on the road. Also there are food deliveries you can make for local people you know who cannot get out themselves to the supermarkets or the food banks. The government is also organising food parcels to those registered as elderly and infirm, but again that may take some time.

            On a different note concerning The Fed Up. This is the Corbett Report which may go some way to explain why the Fed is being nationalised by Donald Trump. Whether that is a good or a bad development is as yet, a matter of conjecture. I’m sure we will see which at some point in the future.

            It appears that the speed and extent of deregulation of the Feds financial operations had gotten to the point of practically exonerating themselves from any responsibility for any financial failures or dodgy dealings whatsoever. Recent legislation that would normally have hit the headlines in the USA, has been sneaked under cover of the Covid-19 media furor. Those internal legislations effectively pass the bill back to the US tax payer to pay for just about everything not nailed down by as yet unsullied legislation.

            I’m sure if you looked at the operations of banks in UK you will find much the same. As yet the oil and gas operations are classed as key worker exclusions from the travel and work restrictions. However stories are already emerging of the failure of operators to protect workers and provide adequate social distancing separation and sufficient PPE.

            The Corbett Report: The Greatest Depression

            Deeper and deeper down the White Rabbit hole we go, where it emerges, no one knows.

  5. Also looking at the still underlying major problem of the onset of worldwide climate change. Which is strangely highlighted by the clear skys and reduced pollution worldwide resulting from this pandemic lock down affecting maybe 2.5 billion or more people worldwide.
    There are some worrying researches going back to 2015 and before, relating to the dangers of releasing ancient virus’s and bacteria from the melting ice caps and permafrost.

    Could thawing permafrost unleash long-gone deadly

    Anthrax Outbreak In Russia Thought To Be Result Of Thawing Permafrost

    Climate change fears: Melting glaciers could unleash ancient viruses, scientists say

    Melting ice in the Arctic Circle could unleash DEADLY diseases which have been hiding for millions of years

    The situation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, may be as nothing to what may be released from melting ice caps and trapped in permafrost.

    We may yet find, that the Covid-19 pandemic is only the melting tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of even more pandemics resulting from the global warming effects of the concentration of almost solely fossil fuel energy production and use for the last hundred years?

    Crises’ tend to concentrate and clarify the issue somewhat beyond the usual fossil fuel propaganda and hype, don’t they?

    That puts the common cry of “CO2 is good for you” brigade in its correct scientific perspective doesn’t it.

  6. I would Think After This Virus Crisis is over The Government will wan,t to support every company it order to rebuild the economy So I suspect Entertaining Ego trips Against Exploration company’s will not be very high on their agenda.

    • I suspect that if, or when, this particular pandemic is over, provided that another is not released from the melting ice caps and permafrost due to climate change caused by fossil fuel pollution. The concentration to rebuild the economy will be upon a totally different planetary responsible totally renewable unpolluting basis as a matter of urgency.

      The focus will be upon totally renewable clean energy technology for the production of energy and to finally intelligently research into unpolluting alternatives to the present fossil fuel hegemony that has plagued the entire world for far too long.

      The present insane profit motivated irresponsible exploitation of the planets resources has been at the expense of the entire planets ecology, animal and insect extinction, and human suffering.

      That has been demonstrably promoted particularly on Drill or Drop by the outrageous over excitable egos from the fossil fuel PR lobby.

      I will be happy to provide you with examples from the past comments on Drill or Drop of the outrageously insane comments provided by the excitable and grossly offensive fossil fuel promoting egos any time you wish. They reap what they sow.

      Have a nice day.

      • From:
        Damian Kahya

        “Airborne particles may be assisting the spread of the virus: The Economist reports that a – yet to be reviewed – paper just published by a group of Italian researchers does, however, posit the idea that sars-cov-2, the virus behind the covid-19 pandemic, might be getting a helping hand from atmospheric pollution. Their hypothesis is that the catalyst was pollution—specifically, small airborne particles that might carry the virus on their surfaces. An alternative explanation for this correlation might be that, rather than carrying the virus themselves, airborne particles increase susceptibility to infection in those who encounter the pathogen by some other means. Either way, though, a reduction in airborne-particle levels may be a second way, independent of reduced human contact, that lockdowns will help stop the virus spreading around.”

        “Climate change is still happening…and it doesn’t mix well: Gizmodo reports that as the coronavirus pandemic continued to escalate around the world, a more localized emergency has unfolded in the Ecuadorian Amazon as intense rains – which are thought to be more likely due to changes in weather patterns – caused severe flooding. “But with the Ecuadorian government focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, the reaction to the flooding has been slow. The country has seen a rapid increase in covid-19 cases over the past few weeks. The total reached more than 1,800 reported cases by Saturday, the most of any Latin American country outside of Brazil and Chile. Of the reported cases, the country has also recorded 48 deaths from the virus.”

        “This could be a sign of problems to come. “The U.S., for example, is facing the prospect of dealing with climate-related threats and coronavirus at the same time. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is forecasting that some 28 million people are at risk for moderate or greater flooding this spring. Flooding has already hit Ohio, where hundreds of people were evacuated last week. And the NOAA forecast doesn’t account for flash floods like those forecast to hit parts of the Midwest on Saturday amidst a severe weather outbreak.”

        “Factory farming may make pandemics more likely: The Guardian asks if factory farming is the cause of the virus by being responsible for the virus. The answer is probably not – but the article does highlight evidence that both the expansion of farming close to previously untouched nature, and the nature of that farming, can lead to the emergence and spread of dangerous new pathogens – especially types of flu.”

        “UK to run out of fruit and veg (ish): Whilst we’re on the glitches in our farming system which have been exposed by the pandemic. The UK is set to run out of fruit and unless, insanely, it flys in 10’s of thousands of workers from other countries in the middle of a global pandemic spread by travel to pick the stuff. Some 90,000 positions need to be filled, many in just a few weeks’ time. One leading supplier, the charity Concordia, was looking to bring in around 10,000 labourers – half from the EU and the rest from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Barbados. But all of the non-EU countries are closed. On Wednesday, in a big setback, Ukraine extended its lockdown from 2 April until 23 April.”

        “This will finish others off.” said the charity’s chief executive “You won’t have fruit and veg in shops. Asparagus and beans start in a couple of weeks, cucumbers early April, tomatoes are all year round; in May it’s soft fruits – strawberries, raspberries; lettuces have been in the ground since December.”

        “Oh, and the global oil market is really really messed up: “The physical oil market has seized up,” said Gary Ross, an influential oil watcher and chief investment officer of Black Gold Investors LLC. “The logistics are struggling to cope because we are facing a catastrophic loss of demand.”

        “The Economist, FT and New York Times all carry pieces on how our response to the virus should be used to tackle climate change. I haven’t had time to read all of them this morning, unfortunately, The Economist notes “The lazy way, the easy way, to boost countries’ economies in response to the virus would be for governments to throw money at established versions of big industries like energy, transport and construction. They could, though, if they chose to do so, spend the cash instead on encouraging climate-friendly versions of these industries: more solar energy (or even, heaven forfend, nuclear power) instead of bungs to oil and gas; more batteries for cars, and money for research into hydrogen-powered fuel cells; cash prizes for ways of making steel and cement without releasing CO2; and so on.”

        So with any real responsible intelligence and from learning from the dire lessons of the present. Maybe it will not be “business as usual” after all will it? Perhaps we are finally waking up to the dangers we face at last resulting from this Covid-19 pandemic.

        And judging from those who seek to promote the old fossil fuel hegemony at any cost, maybe there will be those who will choose to deny and ignore this vital message and try and jam all this experience back in the box as if it never happened.

        If we don’t learn from our past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them over and over and over again.

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