Friends of the Earth Scotland move to face frackers Ineos in court challenge

ECO campaigners have thrown their support behind the Scottish Government as it faces being sued over its fracking ban by lodging a so called ‘public interest intervention’.

INEOS and Reach Coal Seam Gas are seeking a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s decision to ban fracking.

It is thought that would be a precursor to a multi-million claim against Scottish taxpayers over the decision.

Now Friends of the Earth Scotland have submitted their public interest intervention at the Court of Session. This is a legal mechanism that allows key information to be presented to the court where it is judged likely to be useful.

The intervention argues that not only is the ban on fracking lawful, but that the Scottish Government is arguably required to ban fracking in order to meet Scotland’s legally binding climate change commitments.

INEOS is challenging the legality of the ban on fracking and suing the Scottish Government for compensation.

The case is due to be heard next month. The company says it was an alleged breach of its human rights.

It means as the Scottish Government defends its decision, FOEScotland will tackle the claims on environmental grounds, including public consultations used to inform the decisions.

The actions are likely to prove expensive, on both sides, but will also present a fascinating and fundamental new chapter in Scots Law.

Now Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns Mary Church said they had decided to invest resources in the argument to ensure the environmental case is made and public interests represented.

They will content it is crucial for the Scottish Government to ban fracking – where gas is extracted from the ground using high pressure liquid drilling – in order to meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse emissions.

She said: “We are getting involved in INEOS’s judicial review of the fracking ban in order to put forward crucial climate change arguments in support of the ban that otherwise would not have been heard.

“Our intervention argues that the Scottish Government is required to ban fracking so as to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, in line with legally binding climate targets.

“We are confident that the process to ban fracking was robust and fair, and we hope that the courts will find against INEOS.”

She added: “A two-year process looked at mountains of scientific evidence that spoke of the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our environment, climate and people’s health.

“There is overwhelming support for the ban from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland is represented by the Scottish law firm Balfour+Manson and Aidan O’Neill QC of Ampersand and Matrix Chambers with input from Leigh Day in London.

The intervention is by way of a written submission, and provides information to the court on relevant EU, Scottish and UK environmental law, national and international obligations on climate change, as well as the link between human rights and environmental protection.

Balfour+Manson solicitor Sindi Mules said: “Over 60,000 people engaged in the consultation on fracking before Ministers implemented the ban, with 99% opposed to the industry, demonstrating the tremendous importance of this case.

“We are delighted to be involved in this intervention which puts forward important legal arguments on climate change, and trust it ensures a fuller picture of the context around the ban is put before the court.”

Public interest interventions in the Court of Session are rare, and this is the first time such an intervention has put forward arguments in defence of the environment.

Leigh Day Solicitor Carol Day said: “We are delighted that the Court has granted permission for Friends of the Earth Scotland to intervene in this important public interest case.

“As far as we are aware, this is the first intervention in the Court of Session on environmental issues and one of only a handful to have been approved under the new Judicial Review rules.

“FoE Scotland has submitted robust evidence on the environmental and health impacts implications of fracking. We hope the Court will take these points on board during the course of the hearing and uphold the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking.”

Ineos did not immediately comment. They have previously accused Friends of the Earth of committing ‘stunts’ and ‘misrepresenting’ data at other proposed sites.

In January, announcing their Judicial Review move, Tom Pickering, Operations Director at INEOS Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to INEOS, other businesses and indeed the nation as a whole. We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the Court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read:Desperate’ Ineos seeks fracking ban review as company on course to lose ‘millions’

IMAGE CREDITS: cc Stokpic

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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