Ineos fights Scottish Government fracking ‘ban’

Ineos is seeking a legal challenge over the Scottish Government’s effective ban on fracking which has been in place since 2015.

The petrochemical giant said it would seek a judicial review of the “unlawful” ban, arguing there were “very serious errors” in the decision-making process.

But the Scottish government has argued that it took a “careful and considered approach” while coming to the decision, with “detailed assessment of evidence”.

It placed a moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique in 2015, and in October last year energy minister Paul Wheelhouse announced that planning regulations would be used to “effectively ban” it by extending the moratorium “indefinitely”.

“The Scottish Government’s position was endorsed by the Scottish Parliament in October, subject to completion of a strategic environmental assessment, and follows detailed assessment of the evidence and consultation with the public,” he said in response to Ineos’s latest claims.

Last year, 99 per cent of respondents to a public consultation backed the ban and government-commissioned research “does not provide a strong enough basis from which to address these communities’ concerns”.

The Scottish Labour and Green parties called for fracking to be formally banned through legislation, but Wheelhouse insisted that the indefinite moratorium was “robust” enough that this was not necessary.

Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to Ineos, other businesses and, indeed, the nation as a whole.

“We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

Ineos Shale has lodged a petition for judicial review alongside co-venture partner Reach at the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, arguing there was a “failure to adhere to proper statutory process and a misuse of ministerial power”.

The company said the ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction would result in Scotland missing out on economic benefits, including about 3,100 Scottish jobs and £1bn for local communities.

In 2016, before the ban took place, Ineos chief Jim Ratcliffe said that fracking could revive communities paralysed by manufacturing collapse. 

Ineos Shale said millions that had been invested in acquiring licences and obtaining planning permission for drilling sites had been “rendered worthless” by the ban.

“This despite the panel of scientific experts appointed by the Scottish Government concluding that shale development is capable of being managed safely,” the company said.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “This is a predictable and desperate attempt by an industry sinking under public protest in England to try and salvage the last drop of commercial benefit in Scotland.

“Scotland doesn’t want or need fracking and Ineos should accept they lost the democratic debate in the Scottish Parliament, the evidence was there to ban fracking and that is what Holyrood has done.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland also said the move “reeks of desperation” and it was confident the courts would find against Ineos.

But Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The SNP’s decision to ban fracking is rooted in dogma, and ignores the economic benefits it could bring to Scotland.

“Further exploration of shale extraction could also reduce the need for gas imports, and even help relieve fuel poverty.

“The Scottish Government’s own advisers know this, yet still ministers are sticking to this needless and potentially damaging ban.

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