High Court upholds landmark fracking decision

A High Court judge has upheld the decision by North Yorkshire County Council to allow Third Energy to frack an existing exploratory well near the village of Kirby Misperton.

The ruling follows a judicial review brought forward by Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale which claimed the council had failed to properly consider the environmental impact of Third Energy’s application.

The campaign groups argued the council had acted “unlawfully” by neglecting to examine the effects on climate change of shale gas from the well being burnt at a nearby power plant in Knapton.

The presiding judge Justice Lang said she did not consider the claimants’ submissions to be “well-founded”, in contrast to those put forward by the council and Third Energy. “In my judgment, the council was entitled, in the exercise of its judgment, to conclude that an assessment of the environmental impacts of burning gas from the KMA well site at Knapton was not required,” she wrote. “I am satisfied that the council was well aware of these issues and took them into account when resolving to grant planning permission.”

The decision means Third Energy will now be able to press ahead with its plans to hydraulically fracture the well in five different places and gauge its productivity over an eight-week period.

“The council set 40 conditions to the grant of planning permission which the company is well on its way to satisfying,” Third Energy said in a statement. “It is worth remembering that we are nearly two years into a planning application process for a proposed operation that would take less than three months to complete.”

The decision in May to approve Third Energy’s application marked the first time a council had granted permission for fracking since a ban was lifted in 2012, and was thus seen as a ‘landmark’ moment for the shale gas industry in the UK.

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale requested a judicial review of the decision in August and presented their arguments at a hearing in November.