Campaigner to hear High Court injunction decision on Cuadrilla fracking
Mr Justice Supperstone will rule on Friday on Bob Dennett’s application to temporarily halt fracking at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire.
An environmental campaigner is to find out whether he has succeeded in a bid to temporarily stop energy firm Cuadrilla from fracking the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well.
The High Court will rule on Friday on whether to grant an order blocking Cuadrilla from fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire pending a proposed legal challenge by Bob Dennett.
Mr Dennett claims Lancashire County Council’s emergency response planning and procedures at the site are inadequate.
After hearing several hours of submissions from Mr Dennett, the local authority and Cuadrilla on Thursday, Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting in London, said he would rule on whether to extend an existing temporary order at noon on Friday.
Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, told the judge that her client “had been intending to start fracking tomorrow [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”.
Marc Willers QC, for Mr Dennett, had argued that Lancashire County Council failed “to take account of relevant material considerations” and also took account of “irrelevant matters” in its assessment of the alleged environmental and health and safety risks.
He added that a risk assessment which “underpinned the hydraulic fracturing consent” was “fundamentally flawed”.
Mr Willers said there was “a serious issue as to whether or not there is a proper safety regime in place that would cope with and ensure the safety of the local residents in the event of an emergency, in the event of a well blowout or in the event of a major gas leak”.
He also said that there was “frustration” among local residents at the council’s “lack of transparency”, saying that the “drip feeding of information” had reinforced “the general concerns and fears which local residents have”.
Alan Evans, for the local authority, said that the risk assessment was “a document based on robust specialist technical expertise”.
He added that “there is not any evidence at all that this document is in any way irrational”.
He said Mr Dennett’s grounds for judicial review were “so weak that they do not disclose any serious issue to be tried”, which is necessary for the granting of an interim injunction.
Ms Lieven said the site had been the subject of “incredibly thorough and detailed consideration by statutory regulators, in particular the [Health and Safety Executive] and the Environment Agency”.
She added that there was “simply no possible argument that they were not correct” in their assessment.
She said the UK had an “excellent safety record” and a “scrupulous and active regulatory system”.
Mr Dennett said ahead of Thursday’s hearing that there is “absolutely” real fear in the local community about what could happen in an emergency situation.
He said: “The council can classify it as a medium-risk site, but after there’s an incident on a site it ceases to be a medium risk.
“We say they should be looking at the worst possible scenario in terms of emergency planning.”