Updated on 3 September 2022: A climate protester has left a site in Surrey that he has occupied for 33 days in protest at Esso’s new jet fuel pipeline.
On Friday afternoon, a High Court judge issued a warrant this afternoon for48-year-old Scott Breen, also known as Digger.
He left the site late on Friday night. In a statement, he said:
“This pipeline represents the gulf between big oil’s business as usual plans and the simple hope people have to live on survivable planet, free from the ravages of runaway climate change. The new 40% wider pipeline will facilitate the massive carbon bomb of increased emissions that an extra 700 flights per day will bring”
Mr Breen is alleged to have breached the terms of an injunction by occupying land near the pipeline route in Surrey since 1 August 2022.
At a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mrs Justice Heather Williams issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
He was ordered to appear at a brief court hearing on Monday next week and then face committal for contempt of court on Tuesday.
Esso’s lawyers have asked the court to jail Mr Breen for six months.
The company, owned by ExxonMobil, was granted an interim injunction against Mr Breen and persons unknown at a hearing last month. It prevented them from obstructing work on the pipeline or blocking access.
The 105km Southampton to London Pipeline Project will carry aviation fuel from Boorley Green in Hampshire to Esso’s storage terminal in Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport.
Mr Breen, who has argued that the pipeline will increase airport capacity, dug a tunnel on land used by pipeline contractors, near the M25 at Chertsey.
He left the tunnel on 16 August to comply with a ruling by a previous judge in the case. Since then, he has occupied an extended pallet tower at the site.
In written submissions, Tim Morshead QC for Esso described Mr Breen as a “known tunneller”. He said the protester had demonstrated a capacity to disturb work in a way that might have “serious implications”.
Mr Breen’s presence has prevented contractors from progressing the pipeline works nearby, Mr Morshead said. Further delay would be averted by Mr Breen’s “effective removal from the site”.
The QC said Mr Breen had allegedly breached the order, “aggravated his contempt by fortifying his presence” and “boasted about it to the press”.
Mr Breen was still at the site during today’s hearing. But his lawyer, Annabel Timan, said he wished to comply with the injunction order and engage with the court. She said he would leave the site with his belongings by Sunday.
Ms Timan said in written submissions that Mr Breen was “motivated by deeply held beliefs”. He did not accept he had breached part of the injunction ordering him to leave “any and every excavation” within 72 hours of its service.
He argued that the pallet tower was not an excavation, she said. He also said that just the first part of the legal notice had been read to him and not the full terms of the order. After leaving the tunnel, he was not aware he would be breach of the injunction by extending the wooden structure, Ms Timan said.
Mr Breen is expected to give evidence at the committal hearing next week.
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