A legal challenge against the oil and gas industry regulator will be heard at the High Court next month (July 2020).
The case, brought by environmental campaigner, Eddie Thorton, alleges that the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) failed to recognise its legal duty to protect the public from clean-up costs.
It centres on the way the OGA dealt in 2019 with Barclays’ sale of Third Energy, which operates gasfields in North Yorkshire, including the potential fracking site at Kirby Misperton.
A High Court judge will decide whether the OGA properly considered the risk to the taxpayer that clean-up costs would not be met by the new owner, York Energy.
The hearing is due to last two days, on 14 and 15 July 2020, and will be by video conference because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Mr Thornton said:
“The evidence submitted by the Oil & Gas Authority shows the regulator thought it did not need to consider the risk to taxpayers, despite its clear legal duty to do so.
“We have been granted permission by the Court to use additional expert evidence which shows that the OGA did not properly assess the financial capacity of York Energy before allowing the takeover.”
Under the sale agreement, the new owners of Third Energy Onshore Limited received £12m to “meet its known liabilities and provide it working capital”. This “let Barclays off the hook for the clean-up costs”, Mr Thornton said.
“The new expert evidence also shows that there is a real risk that the directors of York Energy will simply take those millions offshore and let the company fail, leaving taxpayers to clean up the mess.
“Instead of using its powers to ensure that the terms of the sale wouldn’t allow this, the OGA says that it isn’t even required to review the sale under their rules. Our legal team say this is a clear legal error.”
- Mr Thornton has raised more than £13,000 to fund his case.