Frack­ing starts for first time as le­gal block fails


FRACK­ING FOR shale gas will be­gin in the UK for the first time to­day, de­spite a High Court chal­lenge and amid a York­shire coun­cil’s plea for the con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice not to go ahead with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion.

En­ergy firm Cuadrilla has been cleared to com­mence hy­draulic frac­tur­ing at its Pre­ston New Road site in Lan­cashire af­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner Bob Den­nett failed in a le­gal move to block the scheme.

It came as York Coun­cil pre­pared a re­sponse to the Gov­ern­ment’s frack­ing con­sul­ta­tions, in which it claims that the con­tentious na­ture of frack­ing means lo­cal au­thor­ity scru­tiny must re­main to al­low lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to have their say.

A spokesper­son for the coun­cil said: “Given the con­tentious na­ture of frack­ing, lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties should be able to have their say in whether this type of devel­op­ment takes place.

At a hear­ing in Lon­don yes­ter­day, Mr Jus­tice Sup­per­stone dis­missed Mr Den­nett’s ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion that would have pre­vented Cuadrilla from frack­ing the UK’s first hor­i­zon­tal shale gas well, pend­ing his pro­posed le­gal chal­lenge.

Mr Den­nett claimed that Lan­cashire County Coun­cil’s emer­gency re­sponse plan­ning and pro­ce­dures at the site are in­ad­e­quate, but the judge ruled that there was not a “se­ri­ous is­sue” to be tried which would jus­tify an in­terim or­der.

In a state­ment af­ter the rul­ing, Cuadrilla chief ex­ec­u­tive Francis Egan said: “We are de­lighted to be start­ing our hy­draulic frac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions as planned. We are now com­menc­ing the fi­nal op­er­a­tional phase to eval­u­ate the com­mer­cial po­ten­tial for a new source of in­dige­nous nat­u­ral gas in Lan­cashire.

“If com­mer­cially re­cov­er­able, this will dis­place costly im­ported gas, with lower emis­sions, sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic ben­e­fit and bet­ter se­cu­rity of en­ergy sup­ply for the UK.”

The judge had been told by Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, that her client “had been in­tend­ing to start frack­ing” on Fri­day, but had “put that off to Satur­day” in light of the late hear­ing.

She added that “ev­ery day, it costs Cuadrilla £94,000 to keep all that kit and equip­ment on site”.

Dis­miss­ing Mr Den­nett’s ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­terim in­junc­tion, the judge said: “I do not con­sider that any of the grounds of chal­lenge raise a se­ri­ous is­sue to be tried.”

He said the site’s safety had been as­sessed by the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive and there was “no ev­i­dence” to sup­port Mr Den­nett’s ar­gu­ment that it should have been cat­e­gorised as pos­ing more than a “medium risk”.

Out­side the court, Mr Den­nett vowed to chal­lenge the de­ci­sion, say­ing: “We have been ad­vised that there are two clear er­rors in this judge’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that leave the way open for us now to take this to the Court of Ap­peal.”

Mark Jack­son as a Vik­ing, front, and Andy Deane as a Saxon at the Royal Ar­mouries ahead of a week­end event un­cov­er­ing leg­endary char­ac­ters from his­tory. The event at the mu­seum in Leeds will in­clude Dan­ish axe-throw­ing and shield paint­ing.

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