UK: Councillor wins right to mount High Court challenge over ‘unlawful’ fracking licence in Cheshire; Court placed £5,000 cap on legal costs Mr. Dean will have to pay personally if he loses because he’s trying to protect the environment from frac’ing & drilling harms

Challenge over ‘unlawful’ fracking licence in Cheshire by BBC News, December  15, 2016

IGas Energy is drilling in search of fossil fuels which could potentially lead to fracking

An environmental campaigner has won the right to mount a High Court challenge against a fracking licence which he claims is “unlawful”.

IGas Energy is drilling in search of fossil fuels around Chester after being granted a petroleum exploration and development licence (PEDL) in 2008.

The licence has since been extended by the government until 2018.

Benjamin Dean from Cheshire was granted permission to seek a judicial review of this extension.

Government figures reveal only five wells of 13 had so far been drilled to explore for hydro carbons between 2008 and 2014.

‘Exceeded powers’
The PEDL was amended in 2013 to extend it by three years, and then given a second extension earlier this year by the then Business Secretary Amber Rudd, until 2018.

Mr Dean, a parish councillor, is trying to stop the remaining wells being completed and said the extension was “unlawful”.

He argues the government “exceeded its powers” when it altered the PEDL.

David Woolfe QC told London’s High Court: “[Mr Dean] submits that the defendant had no power to amend the licence in that way by a deed of variation… in particular extending a key deadline… because there was no power within the Petroleum Act or the regulations to do so.”

Eric Metcalfe, for the secretary of state, argued that arrangements between the government and the company over the drilling licence were “purely contractual” and not governed by public law.

However, Mrs Justice Lang granted Mr Dean permission to mount a full High Court challenge and placed a £5,000 cap on legal costs Mr Dean will have to pay personally if he loses his challenge.

She said: “Mr Dean’s objective is to protect the environment by preventing the extension of the drilling rights, not only on the basis that the exploration could potentially lead to fracking, but harm from the drilling itself,” she said.

A full hearing will be held next year. [Emphasis added]

[Alberta courts ordered Ernst to pay $22,000 in legal costs to the AER when they ruled the energy regulator is completely legally immune, even for acts in bad faith, gross negligence and Charter violations.]

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