The coming months represent a critical time for the UK’s fracking industry as it awaits decisions from the courts and the Communities Secretary in respect of sites in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which will make or break the future of shale gas in the UK.
In May 2016, fracking got the go-ahead in the UK after councillors granted permission for the process to take place in Ryedale, Yorkshire. The decision was the first time the industry had received planning consent since 2011 when Cuadrilla was given permission to frack in Lancashire.
The decision marked a milestone for the UK’s shale gas sector and supporters had hoped that Third Energy, the shale gas explorer that had obtained the most recent consent, could get underway with its operations before the end of the year.
However, the industry, which has been plagued by delays and objections, received another setback when Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale sought a judicial review of the decision to allow the fracking in Ryedale, claiming that councillors had failed to assess the impact of the project on climate change and assess financial safeguards and environmental damage.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the challenge would be heard by the courts on 22nd and 23rd of November 2016, a date much later than had been expected. It appears there is now no prospect of Third Energy being able to commence its operation this year, and more likely, it could be several months into 2017.
If the judicial review is dismissed, Third Energy will then be in a position to obtain final sign off for drilling from the government and it will then look to formalise its contracts with suppliers and contractors for the equipment and services it needs.
Meanwhile in Lancashire, Cuadrilla is still awaiting on the outcome of its appeal after its plans to frack were rejected by Lancashire County Council last summer. The planning inspectorate’s report was received on 4th July of this year and the Communities Secretary must rule on it by 6th October 2016.
Katie Kozlowska is head of the energy and utilities solicitors team at Harrison Drury in Preston. If you have any questions or concerns about energy law, please email Katie or call on 01772 258321. We also have lawyers in Kendal, Lancaster, Garstang and Clitheroe.
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