Greenpeace launches legal challenge to UK fracking

NGO takes on government plans to encourage fracking through courts, labelling technique “reckless and presumptuous”

The UK government’s plans to encourage fracking face a legal challenge from Greenpeace, the NGO announced earlier today.

It calls plans to encourage the controversial method of extracting gas from rock “reckless and presumptuous” and said it hopes similar actions across the country could create a patchwork of “no-go” areas for shale gas drilling.

Greenpeace says the legal case is based on a technique used in fracking of drilling horizontally, which could mean wells extending under people’s houses.

“Under English law, if you own land, your rights extend to all the ground beneath it. That means if someone drills under your home without permission it is trespass,” said Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Anna Jones.

The NGO has set up a website called Wrong Move, inviting people to search online and see if a fracking site is planned near their home.

Estimates of UK shale gas resources range between 1,800-13,000 billion cubic meters (bcm). The Department for Energy and Climate Change believes potentially recoverable gas resources stand at 1,466bcm.

Protests in the West Sussex village of Balcombe gained international attention in the summer, with extraction company Cuadrilla eventually calling a temporary halt to drilling.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Energy chief Ed Davey have all given fracking their tacit support, although Davey insists it only makes sense if the world agrees a strong emissions reduction deal.


The USA’s 9% cut in carbon emissions since 2005 has been linked to the country’s transition from coal to shale gas, but significant environmental concerns remain.

Water pollution linked to chemicals used in the process is one issue, as is the release of large quantities of methane, a gas the IPCC says is 86 times more damaging than CO2 over a 20-year period.

The EU is likely to roll out new legislation designed to regulate fracking in the region by the end of 2013.

“The level of methane emissions tilts the balance for or against the development of shale: it is the central issue,” Jos Delbeke, director-general of the European Commission’s climate divisions told the Daily Telegraph.

“We don’t want to copy and paste what happened in the US. We will do things differently in Europe.”

Last week France’s constitutional council rejected an attempt to overturn a national ban on fracking.

France relies heavily on nuclear power for electricity generation, but has some of the largest shale gas deposits in Europe.

President Francois Hollande opposes the technology along with his coalition partners the Green party.


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