Cumbrian coal mine company intervenes in Supreme Court challenge over Horse Hill oil production  

A landmark legal case on the climate impacts of onshore oil production, to be heard by the Supreme Court in June, could threaten plans for a controversial new coal mine in Cumbria – as well as other fossil fuel developments.

The Supreme Court

West Cumbria Mining Ltd, the company behind Britain’s first new coal mine for 30 years, has been given permission to intervene in the case over plans for oil extraction and drilling at Horse Hill in Surrey.

The case is brought by Sarah Finch, who used to live near Horse Hill, on behalf of the Weald Action Group, a network resisting onshore oil and gas projects.

Ms Finch argued at the high and appeal courts that Surrey County Council should have taken into account the climate impacts from burning the extracted oil, known as ‘downstream emissions’.

The council said it needed to consider only the emissions from the process of extracting oil, known as upstream emissions.

Friends of the Earth has also been given permission to intervene, as it did in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Last month, DrillOrDrop reported that the Office for Environmental Protection had also been given permission to intervene. It was set up under the Environment Act 2021 to protect and improve the environment by holding the government and other public bodies to account.

(Intervention is a process by which courts can give permission to non-parties to join a legal action and be part of proceedings.)

“National importance”

The Horse Hill case has similarities with the proposed Cumbrian coal mine, where carbon emissions from the use of extracting coal were also not included in the developer’s environmental impact assessment.

Sarah Finch said today:

“The fact that West Cumbria Mining want to have their say in a case about a small onshore oil development 370 miles from their proposed coal mine shows the national importance of this case.

“I hope that the Supreme Court will confirm that no fossil fuel development – coal, oil or gas – should be allowed without consideration of its full climate impact.”

Friends of the Earth and the local campaign group South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) are now seeking to overturn in the courts the government’s approval of the coal mine.

If Sarah Finch’s case succeeds at the Supreme Court, Friends of the Earth said today it reserved the right to argue that the Secretary of State’s approach to downstream emissions on the Cumbrian coal mine was unlawful.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“The biggest climate impact from gas, coal and oil projects occurs when the fuel they produce is eventually burned – it’s unbelievable that this is effectively ignored when planning decisions are made.

“This landmark legal challenge could have huge implications for fossil fuel developments across the country, including the new coal mine in West Cumbria. West Cumbria Mining are clearly concerned, which is why they have intervened.

“West Cumbria Mining boast that they will build the world’s first zero carbon mine, which is a complete contradiction in terms. Their calculations also ignore emissions from when the coal produced is actually used – that’s like saying that we should ignore the health impacts of smoking cigarettes and just look at how they are produced.

“We need to stop burying our heads in the sand. Sarah Finch’s legal case could play a huge role in building a net zero future.”

The Horse Hill appeal will be heard in the Supreme Court on 21 June 2023. DrillOrDrop reported on the  Horse Hill legal challenge at the High and Appeal Courts. We will be reporting from the Supreme Court hearing.

DrillOrDrop interview with Sarah Finch

3 replies »

  1. I believe his coal mine should be given to proceed . If it is not mined here it will be mined somewhere else in the world .
    Where deprived British workers jobs plus the suppliers to the mine and the local economy benefitting.
    These do goodies drive me nuts do they thinking depriving mining in our little UK compared to China for example will solve climate change , same ad the open cast mine in Dowlais in South Wales where the council in Merthyr are stopping mining , ridiculous decision it supplies Port Tablot Steel works cement factories and steam heritage lines all creating employment.

  2. Climate emissions are not the worst case scenario regarding the Cumbria coal mine whose CEO is advising Government on nuclear waste dumping plans, whose coal mine lies a few miles from Sellafield and directly between the nuclear waste target area and whose director’s coal mine business in Siberia have been bankrolled by the Russian State to the tune of tens of millions of pounds – nope climate is not the only or even the most important issue in the Cumbria coal mine case- but it is serving to throw a shroud of invisibility over the nuclear waste/cronyism/Russia connections and that does investigative journalism or the truth or the planet no favours at all

  3. Why is it the UK needs a lot more nuclear? Oh yes, someone forgot the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. When either happens in UK, it is an insecure bonus, not a secure certainty.

    The late scientific advisor to the UK Government was spot on. Was he another Nostradamus? Nope, he used science and arithmetic to come to his judgement which was pretty accurate. Shame he was not believed or his common sense was not followed. Group Think was the preferred route. How’s that going? Oh yes, £200B for new nuclear (which never comes in on budget) and that is without any consideration for disposal.

    Old coal mines being used to dump nuclear waste? Hmmm, far more likely to be required for storing imported gas!

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