Supreme court allows OEP to intervene in challenge over Surrey oil extraction

The Office for Environmental Protection has been given permission by the Supreme Court to intervene in a landmark legal challenge over the climate impact of oil production in Surrey.

Campaigners gathering outside Surrey County Council in advance of decision meeting on oil production at Horse Hill, 11 September 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The new regulator, created in 2021 to hold government to account on the environment, said today it sought to highlight the importance of clarity in law to promote good decision-making.

It applied to intervene in the case brought by Sarah Finch against Surrey County Council over planning permission for new wells and long-term oil production at Horse Hill, near Horley. More details

The case centres on whether the council acted unlawfully by not requiring an assessment of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of oil produced by the new wells.

It will be heard at the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, on 21-22 June 2023.

The OEP’s general counsel, Peter Ashford, said:

 “Environmental impact assessment [EIA] 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.”

15 replies »

  1. Hmmm, so these agencies are able to look at such considerations for imported oil? Nope. It would just be a license to preclude local production and on that basis would also be open to be transposed upon most local activity-including such things as farm shops, fuel stations, shops, etc. Yet, my Green local election leaflet is full of not much but buy locally to cut down on transport emissions! (For those who believe such considerations can be made in isolation then my local solar farm that then enabled a housing estate on a neighboring field proves that is not the case. Precedent, once set is a powerful legal tool.)

    As “they” say, common sense is not that common.

    • But most of these oil wells , and definitely the proposed new ones in the North Sea , are for oil to be exported. This is certainly true of the west Cumbria coal mine which also hung on the issue of whether “end use” emissions should be included in the EIA.
      Pretty well all that coal would be exported most beyond Europe, so consent would not cut imports at all.

      • Nonsense, Maggie. UK is a net importer of oil, and scheduled to be an increasing one without more local production, to replace declining local production. Of course, some oil is exported from UK, for very good reasons, that have been explained many times on this site, yet you fall back upon that? Interesting how the “energy security” that was the phrase of not so long ago has now been swept under the carpet in a belief that no one will notice the nonsense of that, either.

        Additionally, oil is traded in $, so more imports have a double whammy impact upon the UK’s balance of payments and strength of the £-that is a cost to everyone. No UK taxation is applied to imported oil, 75% taxation is applied to UK oil and some of that taxation then redistributed to UK consumers to try and help them out having to pay so much more than other much larger producing countries citizens! Now, that example is being spread to energy intensive industries, rather than used for other purposes such as the NHS. If and when you need the NHS will you accept them telling you, sorry, but that money was redistributed to making sure “we” could make stuff in UK and support jobs by subsidizing energy costs to various industry sectors?

        Net Zero, if achieved, and well beyond it, requires the continued use of oil. The question then is, from where? I am an omnivore, so eat meat when I can afford to, and chose to. Where and how it is produced is important to me. I can influence that as a consumer. You are a consumer of oil. If you don’t have the will power to stop then perhaps at least influence towards local production? I see no sense in any other position, unless it is being proposed by those who have a vested interest somewhere over the horizon or transporting/trading from over the horizon. Other than that, there is no sense, common or not.

        Going back to the can of worms, it would not be produced with the use of any tungsten then on the basis of this challenge!

      • Around 85% of UK oil is exported. Top destination is The Netherlands, from where it may be exported to other destinations. Second largest market for UK crude oil exports is China! This link covers both gas and oil:
        See also here:

        • If you read the link, then you will see why oil is exported! Then there is all of that imported. Showing UK is a net importer. Perhaps UK should have invested in the right sort of refineries? Oh dear, I remember- when the investment was on offer who was it that decided to protest at the refineries?? Usual suspects that have never been able to get anything to balance and now want to make it worse. Takes me back to the infamous interview with Andrew Neil. Consistent, but appalling that lessons are not learned.

  2. Of course, environmental protection should figure in consideration of all planning applications. Such a rôle does not favour or promote malign intent, nor does it render it impossible. It does however offer self-evidently a degree of protection against malign influences.
    Such a rôle is certainly not a “license (sic) to preclude local production”. This is an extreme reaction not rationally justifiable.

  3. Except the environmental protection is not the same “environmental protection” as being reviewed within this case! That is not rational or extreme, it is just ignorance, or a very poor attempt at deflection. Environmental protection for the production of oil on shore in UK is already in place. Maybe not as some would like, but a separate subject, not under consideration in this case.

    Let me explain it in simple terms:

    If one wants to run a bath then the water coming from the bath tap is the same volume as that from a hose from a property half a mile away if there is no bath tap. The running of the bath is the demand, the supply follows.
    1720, and the rest of us create the demand. I don’t whinge then about the demand being supplied. I just prefer that it is met in a way that I can observe-just the same reason I will use a local farm shop when I can.

    Transfer of production to a local source has already cost one community £400k. It really is not a difficult concept to understand, except for some where IQ is what is done at the chippie. If it costs the crowd funding group some more okay by me, but if it was successful then oil from over the horizon would still continue and would not have such controls upon it. It would also very obviously create a precedent in UK law that would be impossible to control, and in that respect alone I am surprised it needs the Supreme Court to consider the issue. Hmmm, stop production of red diesel because of down stream considerations? Stop production of fertilizer because of downstream considerations? Well, open the can of worms because that is what would be left on the menu.

    • MARTIN ,

      What the people must remember , is that although your default setting is always to try and frighten them with the threat of a £400 k possible legal cost to their community budgets , as they fight a deeply unpopular project and it may also give you some laughter and amusement at this one community having to make cutbacks to various needy care causes as a result of this loss.

      What the people MUST never forget though , is that their direct actions against such projects , cost these companies £ MILLIONS .

      So don’t be put off by MARTINS fear mongering tactics , his hand is weak , the cards are definitely stacked in YOUR favour.

      This one, £400k loss for a community pales in to significance when you look at the ENDLESS successes communities have had fighting such industries …. As an example , just look at the highly toxic , environmentally damaging , climate changing industry otherwise known as Fracking , its been completely stopped in its tracks …… It’s been an overwhelming success for UK people power .

      • Yet, Jack, those who pontificate about what it costs others and the “good” that is produced are, themselves, unable to manage without the product they advocate others should do without.

        Posting the post, but not walking the walk.

        You also seem to have missed the fact Jack this site has been authorized and operating for some years. In tandem with others. So, I don’t know what card game you play, if that is your idea of stacked in your favour, then don’t place a bet. But you are not are you Jack? You advocate others should and pay the consequences, whilst you continue to create a demand yourself. Perhaps you just prefer other oil, Jack, to be used? Maybe that is me trying to place some semblance of coherence to your post when I should just accept there is none?

        Over the top, lads, Jack will sit back here in his trench, cheering you on to “glory” with not even an “oops” of apology!

        I have missed your humorous offerings Jack. Fracking was stopped by seismic activity, Jack, in UK. People power, if it had any influence, just delayed that happening!

        • MARTIN ,

          My above comment, was not directed in anyway , at the rights or the wrongs of the Surrey Oil extraction project .

          My comment, for the record, was solely directed at your regular inclusion of this , ” RARE AS HENS TEETH ” financial win against a community. Council.

          For those who are not already in the know , the success rate so far has firmly been on the side of the communities … Take Fracking for instance, it has been given the two fingers wherever it has tried to rear its ugly head and finally the monotorium was the icing on the cake.

          The people must not be put off by your fear mongering.

          • Thanks for the laugh, Jack.

            When I was a youngster there used to be these people who trotted around selling Encyclopedias to parents so their kids could be sure of history and facts. Now there is the Internet, where a simple click correctly directed will do the same job, as long as the siren voices directing towards other links are ignored, eh Jack!?

            I can only guess the redundant Encyclopedia salespeople are now employed on the Internet, and in the UN, trying to change history! You have tried to change history before Jack which I do find amusing as I trust there are not that many readers on this site who are unable to fact check and/or suffer such severe dementia that their short term memory is so compromised. You are not alone Jack, although you fall back upon the method as regularly as a Kremlin spokesperson. A reminder also that 2020 was NOT a normal year! Thankfully, I have a lovely grandson as a result, (born in December, do the maths.) Chesapeake Energy shareholders now have a lovely future as a result. Most others have rampant energy prices and rampant inflation, as a result-apart from those who have control over their own energy costs. Remember them, Jack? The $7 lot compared to the $47 lot. Their inflation levels are not ideal, but a whole lot better.

            By the way, Jack, this challenge has been crowd funded. In other words a few guided, or misguided souls will pay the cost. I couldn’t care less whether they lose their money. It is theirs to lose. Very unlike the £400k or the £millions in policing costs at PNR. Check you facts, Jack. Everyone else has or can.

            • Oh dear MARTIN , more ” Collywaffle ”

              Chesapeake Energy, was like ALL of the USA Fracking industry, before the war in Ukraine it was a debt ridden white elephant … With a stream of endless bankruptcies , the War on Ukraine has been an amazing lifeline for the ” on its knees ” US fracking industry .


              Chesapeake Energys future ” ONLY ” looks good whilst the war in Ukraine continues to drag on . The moment Russian oil starts flowing to the West again , it will be back on its KNEES . Just LOOK at the debts it had prior to the Ukraine conflict , $9 BILLION , yes I did say $ 9 BILLION .


              Oh and yes , the world’s largest arms manufacturer has never had it so good .

              Something to think about isn’t it MARTIN …. WHO BENEFITS from all this , who really pulls the strings of power ???????

              Well it’s not the UK for sure , energy and the cost of living have gone through the roof .

              Oh and yes , you mention $7 and $47 again , well let’s talk about this MARTIN and please fully explain to the readers what you are talking about …. I will of course ” cut and paste ” my previous response to make sure the readers are fully aware of your smoke and mirrors tactics..

              • Ahh, there you go again, Jack the Vlad. Russian oil will NOT start to flow to the West again. Sorry, but that ship has sailed, floundered and will not be refloated. Never mind, Turkish oil might!! Without the constraints requested to the Supreme Court. Ironic?

                I should give that one up Jack. You just live with false hope and now are into some future fantasy, to add to your historical ones. If you have some roubles dependent upon that, I would suggest the Euro Lottery may be a better bet.

                Debt, Jack? OMG straight from the anti capitalist hand book! Every start up business and most other established businesses operate with large amounts of debt. Most service that debt pretty well, others in those normal years that were anything but normal, have issues. Even banks had issues during the financial crash. Probably another normal year?

                Yes, Jack, energy and cost of living have gone through the roof-for those who “enjoy” expensive, insecure energy! The readers know well about $7v$47, Jack. Those who pay energy bills do, anyway, and those who ignore the fantasy of one world market for gas. Perhaps cut and paste your energy bills? I had a reminder about mine this morning-another £67/month increase as “Government” support, ie. from UK oil and gas production windfall tax, is reduced. You really have little idea of what is happening in the UK when you post, do you Jack?

  4. The principle of environmental protection remains just that whether applied in the cause of stopping fossil fuel development on the one hand, or, on the other, reducing the deleterious effects on the environment of existing sources of pollution. In both cases countervailing arguments may be used to reject or attenuate the application of the principle which, however, remains. An argument which uses the fact of different applications of the principle in order to obscure the principle is specious and therefore dangerous.

  5. Once again 1720 you post in the abstract, totally divorced from this particular situation. There is NO principle regarding this particular situation, that is why it is being tested in the Courts! I have looked at the substance of the testing and my opinion is that if such a challenge succeeded it could not only be focused upon fossil fuel and would create a precedent that would be a legal minefield that could impact almost any retail business, for starters, although very rewarding to the legal profession. Whilst I can understand certain individuals and groups being unconcerned about such matters, I would expect the Courts would pay a lot of attention to that aspect.

    Your argument that totally ignores the substance of this challenge is either from someone who just likes to argue, or is too lazy to do a bit of basic research-or both.

    Careful, you have started to paint that floor again, from the door. The idea is that you paint the floor and cover the marks by so doing, rather than leave your footprints within the paint showing you were not up to such a simple task. You do not learn, do you?

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