The new organisation created to hold government to account on the environment is seeking to contribute to a landmark legal case on the climate impact of onshore oil production.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has applied to intervene in the challenge brought by Sarah Finch against Surrey County Council over planning permission for new wells and production at the oil site at Horse Hill.
The case is due to go to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, in June 2023. More details.
The court will consider whether the council acted lawfully in not requiring the site operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, to assess the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil produced at new wells.
The operator’s environmental impact assessment considered only the emissions from the process of oil production.
The OEP was created in November 2021 with a mission to protect and improve the environment.
It said it was applying to intervene in the case to highlight the “importance of clarity in the law to promote good environmental decision-making”. Link to press release
The OEP general counsel, Peter Ashford, said:
“Environmental impact assessment is so important for integrating the environment into planning decision-making.
“We are interested in this case because of the opportunity to clarify the law here to ensure proper decision-making that enhances environmental protection.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity, and will develop principles for determining the proper approach to the assessment of indirect effects under the EIA legislation.”
The OEP’s application has been welcomed by Sarah Finch and the Weald Action Group, a campaign network opposing oil exploration in southern England.
Sarah Finch said:
“I’m delighted that the OEP has applied to intervene in the case. This reflects the legal importance and seriousness of this appeal. Given its responsibility to ensure compliance with environmental law, and its expertise, its input into the case will be crucial and helpful to the Court.”
Vicki Elcoate, of the Weald Action Group, said:
“The OEP is quite right that the law needs clarifying. Each new fossil fuel development locks in decades of future greenhouse gas emissions – and no regulatory process is directly measuring and mitigating them. The present situation means different planning authorities can make different decisions about which environmental impacts of a project to consider. If the full impacts aren’t assessed at the planning application stage, it is difficult to see how we can meet vital climate targets.”
It is a nonsense to consider oil and gas applications in the way planning is geared now. Climate change and the wider emissions, such as the negative impact fossil fuels cause by being burned from say 25 years of production should be taken into account. It all adds to the global cumulative damage.
Who funds the OEP?
The taxpayer of course – what a surprise!
Ms Finch should be funding the challenge. She must have some money behind her with her work as writer, editor and climate campaigner.
2. Funding under the draft bill
The draft bill provides that the OEP’s funding will be supplied by the Secretary of
State. The amount of funding will be “such sums as the Secretary of State considers
are reasonably sufficient to enable the OEP to carry out its functions”.1 As noted in
the Explanatory Notes, “[f]unding will be provided to the OEP in the form of grant-inaid, which will be set out as a sep
I can find nothing to suggest that the OEP will contribute to Ms Finch’s legal costs, can you? And I thought the Environmental Act 2021 went through in law, rather than remain a “draft bill”?
We can discuss the issues, but not if there is reliance on inaccurate information.
So does everyone exhaling, KatT. So do all the people eating rice. It is a total nonsense that would create a precedence that the Courts would be working full time to deal with.
Wind turbines are plonked on concrete. Try sorting that one out.
Making an exception just because you would like it to be an exception is absolute legal nonsense.
You are using products from fossil fuels yourself. Would they have to come from imported oil, where the UK legal system regarding planning would not apply?