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by Sam Tobin at the High Court
ENERGY FIRM Caudrilla has been given the green light to frack for shale gas for the first time in seven years in a disappointing defeat for environmental campaigners.
Fracking will begin at Caudrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire tomorrow after campaigner Bob Dennett’s legal action to block operations was rejected by the High Court in London.
At a hearing today, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed the application for an injunction preventing the company from drilling Britain’s first horizontal shale gas well pending his proposed legal challenge.
The decision clears the way for the first fracking to be carried out in Britain since 2011, when projects were suspended after the process was linked to earthquakes.
Mr Dennett argued that Lancashire County Council's emergency response planning and procedures at the site are inadequate.
However, the judge ruled that there was no “serious issue” to be tried which would justify an interim order.
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.”
Mr Justice Supperstone also refused permission for a judicial review of Lancashire County Council's emergency planning procedures regarding the site.
He said: “I am entirely satisfied that the claim as formulated is unarguable.”
In a statement after the ruling, Cuadrilla boss 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.”
However, Mr Dennett vowed to take his fight to the Court of Appeal.
He said: “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, which is what we are obviously going to do.
“We remain defiant. This started in Lancashire and we are going to finish this in Lancashire.
“I’d like to say a really big thank you to our legal team – they have worked so hard for so long.
“We didn’t get the result we were looking for, but we will fight on.”
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley called the ruling “bitterly disappointing” but insisted that the opposition to fracking is “stronger than ever.”
He said: “Fracking is a dirty, dangerous industry and I stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave residents standing up for the safety of their community today.
“We are deeply disappointed by this ruling, but the anti-fracking movement is stronger than ever and we will not give up this fight until Britain is frack-free.
“It’s time the government ditched its reckless dash for gas and invested instead in a renewable revolution of solar, wind and tidal power.”
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey called it a “scandal” that the government has forced through fracking at any cost.
The decision – which came in the same week that a United Nations panel warned that drastic action is needed to tackle climate change – will have a “disastrous” effect on efforts to reduce emissions, argued Ms Long Bailey.
She pledged that the next Labour government would ban fracking.
Jamie Peters of Friends of the Earth added: “Today’s court ruling is sad news for local residents who’ve long fought against this dirty industry and the risks it poses to their environment and the climate.
“In a week in which the scale of action needed to stop climate chaos has dominated the headlines, it is simply wrong to be heralding the start of a new fossil-fuel industry.
“You can have fracking or you can deal with climate change. You can’t do both.”
Anti-fracking protesters have been urged to get down to the Preston New Road site tomorrow to let Cuadrilla know that the fight is not over.
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