Legal

Date set for appeal hearing over Surrey oil production

The Court of Appeal has scheduled a date for a legal challenge about the climate impact of oil production at the Horse Hill well site in Surrey.

Horse Hill oil site, Surrey, 29 April 2020. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

At a hearing in November 2021, climate campaigner Sarah Finch will ask the court to decide whether Surrey County Council should have taken account of greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil produced at the site.

It is the latest stage in opposition to the council’s decision in September 2019 to grant planning permission at Horse Hill for four new oil wells and 20 years of production.

The appeal hearing is expected to last a day-and-a-half and is due to begin on Tuesday 16 November 2021.

DrillOrDrop has previously reported that Ms Finch’s case centres on what should have been included in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) – a detailed study that accompanied the planning application.

The council said the EIA should consider only the direct emissions from producing the oil. But Ms Finch said it should also assess the indirect emissions from using the oil.

Her case was dismissed by the High Court in December 2020. But Lord Justice Lewison said the appeal should be heard because the argument had “far-reaching ramifications” and greenhouse gas emissions were a matter of “considerable public concern”.

If Ms Finch wins the argument, there could be far-reaching repercussions for carbon-intensive industries.

Friends of the Earth will be submitting arguments on paper in support of Ms Finch’s case.

13 replies »

  1. So, will a Brussel Sprout processing factory have to consider downstream emissions?!

    The concept is a nonsense-other than for the vested interests who would make a fortune out of debating the concept and preventing just about any planning being passed for anything.

  2. Ruth you are wasting time… you are fighting for you own backyard only and it does nothing to global pollution/climate issues.
    Single oil sites will exist in every country for decades to come and they are more environment friendly than importing oil form South Arabia and other courtiers with little regulation via massive tankers… Tankers are big environmental pollutants, danger to wild life and risk of environmental disaster.

    If you really care about environment, it would be better to put your efforts to pressure on government in many issues which are so simple yet nothing is done: nonsense plastic to wrap foods, use plastic in packaging for everting, ban use of plastic in costal cities, stop exporting recycling garbage abroad, develop way of recycling like they do it in Singapore in UK, plant trees everywhere where possible ie. in public deserts like city parks, turn golf courses into native forest, etc etc. Fighting for some lone oil well will not change a thing. Oil will be needed for decades to come and what needs to be done is to address it the use of oil products. We need to start eliminating them, than oil wells will be not needed.

  3. It is for the user to limit their use, not the producer.
    You have no idea WHERE the oil will be used, Counrty? Farming, Hospitals backup power…
    You have no idea How the oil will be used. Fuel? Cosmetics? Lubrication, Plastics.
    The TRANSITION is to be by 2050 and the planning consent does not run that long ( 20 years + 5 years site restoration)

    You cannot count the emissions twice at production and at the user end, that’s false accounting.

  4. As Fawley Chemical Plant, fed from the refinery, has recently increased output of artificial rubber to aid in the construction of ventilators to assist in the fight against Covid, perhaps UK on shore oil production should be fast tracked? And of course with regard to variants, UK onshore oil production would not risk the importation of such from people travelling from other countries.

    See, once you start this hare running, like all running hares it could go anywhere.

  5. Latest Horse Hill figures give about 100 bopd.
    That’s 36,500 per year.
    An oil supertanker can carry 2,000,000 barrels of oil. (Some are larger)
    2,000,000 / 36,500 = 54.79 years.
    So, at Jan/Feb 2021 production levels, Horse Hill would take 54.79 years to replace just one supertanker, assuming continuous production and no fall-off of yield.

  6. So, what you are saying Malcolm is there is no point in sticking up one wind turbine because it will not make any difference? Or, one house with solar panels is not worthwhile?

    What would make a real difference to the environment is if one super tanker carrying 2m barrels of oil lost it’s cargo! And, they do.

    Even when the antis do attempt the arithmetic, there is an unfortunate knack of not remembering what it may indicate.

    I grow my own courgettes. A truck can carry thousands of the chaps all the way from Spain to UK. But, as scientists have suggested that each individual taking what action they can to use local sources of supply will all add up, it would only be those wedded to dogma who would avoid such common sense.

    • Exactly Martin.
      Those NIMBYs behave like kids who judge book by its cover…
      No effort to try understand whole picture, just focused on their own backyard. And meanwhile, in everyday life, they take benefits from global markets/production/economy/pollution…

  7. For those want to support Sarah’s challenge- the fundraising effort is starting, you can get behind it here; https://chuffed.org/project/changing-gears-on-fossil-fuels-sam-and-simon-cycle-to-spain
    Or here;
    http://www.wealdactiongroup.org.uk/donate/

    We have a good shot at obliging planners to consider the effects of the fossil fuel extraction they regulate.

    The limit for 2 degrees C of warming (equilibrium long term) is 450 ppm CO2e. We are at 504 ppm atmospheric CO2 equivalent now, in dire trouble already.

  8. So, will a Sarin processing factory have to consider downstream emissions?!

    The concept is a nonsense-other than for the vested interests who would make a fortune out of debating the concept and preventing just about any planning being passed for anything.

    After all, it’s for the user to limit its use, not the producer.

    Thank you Martin and Tony for your considered opinions above.

    • Interesting analogy to Sarin production laith.

      Downstream emissions for Sarin have already been considered, it’s production and stockpiling is illegal under international law, despite the market demand for nerve agents.

      Thanks for supporting our argument.

  9. How is an argument supported when you refer to an illegal activity-and how do you make the “argument”!??

    By utilising the very products-that are legal-that you are arguing against!

    So, 1720 and the “considered” thoughts, are not that considered, and would also exclude just about every manufacture of solar panels. And as for EVs with utilisation of cobalt, do emissions rate higher than cancers? And, who would decide that?

    Really. If you have to contrive such a nonsense, then it points to the concept being a nonsense. The worst type of Student Union nonsense, although some of Student Union debate does actually incorporate reality.

    For two people to be arguing that something they use should be made illegal to try and counter the scientific evidence that local sourcing is better for the environment is surreal. I eat courgettes. I grow my own to prevent transport emissions for my supplies. I do not require that courgettes be made illegal. Or solar panels, or EVs, or wind turbines, or animal protein and so on and so on.

    Has anyone thought that such a concept would make every oil refinery in UK illegal? Maybe a few zealots would like that, but can’t imagine any judge would be willing to rule in that direction. So, if you want better odds than crowd funding this one, try the lottery!

  10. Noting the 2 year extension for Loxley announced today, I wonder what a 2 year delay may cost-the community?

    May be a requirement for some serious crowd funding coming up. However, as that was not seen to occur at Wressle, I would expect in similar circumstances, the local community would be left to pick up the bill, and a rinse and repeat operation moved on to somewhere else.

    Protectors? Nope.

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