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High Court: Government’s fracking policy is ‘unlawful’

Words: Laura Edgar
Exploratory drilling / iStock

The government’s planning guidance on fracking is ‘unlawful’, the High Court has ruled today.

Environmental campaign group Talk Fracking initiated the legal action. It argued that the updated government guidance did not take account of scientific and technical developments on the environmental impact of fracking.

Justice Dove, agreeing that ministers had overlooked the climate impact of the extraction of shale gas, declared the government’s policy “flawed in its design and processes”.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that minerals planning authorities should “recognise the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction”.

The Guardian reports that at a hearing in December, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the new guidance was simply restatement of the government’s previous commitment to fracking. Campaigners, though, believe “significant and material development in the understanding of the greenhouse gas emissions” resulting from fracking had not been considered.

Dove said Talk Fracking's scientific evidence, cited in its consultation response, “was never in fact considered relevant or taken into account”. This was “obviously material on the basis that it was capable of having a direct bearing upon a key element of the evidence base for the proposed policy and its relationship to climate change effects”.

Image credit | iStock