Ineos loses fracking court case against Scottish Government
The Ineos refinery at Grangemouth - Image credit: PA Images
Oil and gas giant Ineos has lost its legal challenge of the Scottish Government fracking ban.
Ineos and Aberdeen firm Reach CSG were seeking a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction – which includes fracking and coalbed methane extraction – which the companies claimed was “unlawful”.
A moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2015 and in October this was extended “indefinitely”, with Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation Paul Wheelhouse pledging to use planning laws to “effectively ban” the process in Scotland.
At the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, Lord Pentland found that the Scottish Government’s “preferred policy position” of no support for fracking does not amount to a legally enforceable prohibition and therefore INEOS had no case.
Welcoming the court’s decision, Wheelhouse said: “This decision vindicates the extensive process of research and consultation which the Scottish Government has undertaken since 2015.
“As I set out in October, our preferred position is not to support unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and that position remains unchanged.
“I have repeatedly set out to parliament that we would undertake a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) ahead of finalising that position and that approach has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament.
“The work to complete the SEA and a business and regulatory impact assessment is currently underway and the findings will be carefully considered.
“In the meantime, a moratorium is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed.
“The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process which is underway to finalise our position is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time.”
The ruling by the Court of Session has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth Scotland, who had submitted a public interest intervention in the judicial review.
They argued that not only is the ban on fracking lawful, but also the Scottish Government needs to ban fracking to meet the country’s legally binding climate change commitments.
Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said: “We are delighted that Ineos has lost its challenge against the Scottish Government’s ‘effective ban’ on fracking.
“Today’s ruling will come as a huge relief to the thousands of people who have fought to stop fracking in Scotland, particularly those faced with the prospect of living near this dirty, damaging industry.
“Ineos should listen to the people and parliament of Scotland who have made it clear that there is no support for fracking, and give up on its plans to trash the central belt and the climate.
“Support for a ban on fracking from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood is overwhelming.
“There is little doubt that a strategic environmental assessment will support a ban on fracking given the mountains of evidence about the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our environment, climate and people’s health.
“We urge the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision making process on fracking as swiftly as possible and use the powers now available to them to legislate for a full ban, and draw a line under the issue of unconventional oil and gas extraction for good.”