An anti-fracking campaigner from North Yorkshire who is challenging the regulator of the oil and gas industry finally takes his case to the High Court tomorrow.
A year ago, Eddie Thornton instructed a solicitor to start legal action against the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).
“This is the culmination of over a year’s work by our researchers and legal team. Our case is not just significant for environmental campaigners, it’s important for everyone. We must ensure that the Oil and Gas Authority meets its regulatory requirements otherwise it will be the taxpayer who pays the price.”
Since then he has raised more than £30,000 towards the legal costs.
The case centres on whether the OGA acted lawfully when it approved the sale of Third Energy to York Energy in July 2019.
Third Energy had made national headlines in May 2016 when it was granted planning permission to frack the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
Protests accompanied the delivery of fracking equipment to the KM8 site in autumn 2017. But fracking never happened because the company failed a government financial resilience test. The company’s accounts for the year ending December 2017 showed liabilities had risen to £63.9m and annual losses to £3.5m.
Permission for change of control
Third Energy did not seek the OGA’s written permission for the change of control of the gas production licences in Ryedale at the time of the sale. The OGA did not request an application for the change of control to York Energy.
The OGA is expected to say tomorrow that it did not need to approve the change.
But Mr Thornton’s legal team will say the OGA had a legal duty to consider whether the sale would leave the taxpayer funding any clean-up of oil and gas sites if the new owner went out of business.
His case is that the OGA acted unlawfully in determining that no approval was needed. His lawyers will also argue that the OGA conducted only a limited financial analysis of York Energy.
York Energy was set up in February 2019, only two months before the deal with Third Energy was first announced. At that time, it had a share capital of £10.
Mr Thornton said:
“The OGA has not said who will pick up the bill for decommissioning 20 well pads, 150km of pipelines and Knapton Power station if York Energy fails, but it’s not hard to see that it will almost certainly be left to us – the taxpaying public.”
The hearing, which begins at 10.30am tomorrow, is before Mr Justice Robin Knowles. It is scheduled to last two days and will be conducted by video link.
DrillOrDrop will be reporting from both days of the case.