Environmentalists lost a major lawsuit against hydraulic fracturing Wednesday, clearing one of the last major roadblocks to fracking in Britain.
The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) sued to stop fracking in Lancashire, England. High Court Justice Ian Dove threw out the suit, dealing PNRAG a huge setback.
Dove ruled PNRAG’s lawsuit was groundless, and “not made out in substance.”
“Today’s decision also sets a terrible precedent for other communities facing the unconventional gas industry,” PNRAG said in a statement. “The fracking industry does not constitute as sustainable development and is a backwards step for the UK’s commitment to mitigating climate change and upholding the Paris Agreement.”
U.K.-based energy company Cuadrilla began assembling the first large-scale fracking site in Lancashire in January. British officials approved the operation in October, and Cuadrilla expects to begin drilling in the second quarter of 2017. (RELATED: Government Overrules British Fracking Ban)
“We always remained confident that [sic] that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional Planning Officers at Lancashire County Council and subsequently an experienced Planning Inspector,” Francis Egan, CEO of the Cuadrilla, said in a statement.
“Work continues on the construction of the exploration site and we look forwards to progressing to the drilling stage of our operations within the next couple of months,” Egan said.
The U.K. is one of the few countries in Europe to allow fracking, but local governments had repeatedly refused to give energy companies permits for years. The central government approved fracking in Lancashire over local objections and issued the first fracking permits in Western Europe since 2011. (RELATED: Britain Officially Opens Door To More Fracking)
“We have been through an exhaustive environmental impact assessment on this,” Egan told BBC News. “We have assessed everything: noise, traffic, water, emissions, etc. The Environment Agency are entirely comfortable with it.”
That hasn’t quelled environmental activists. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth gathered more than 186,000 signatures to petition the government to ban fracking.
PNRAG and other groups claim fracking has caused earthquakes and groundwater contamination. The British Geological Survey have investigated environmentalist claims about fracking since May and found no evidence to substantiate them.
Fracking operations were halted after test-drilling in Lancashire allegedly triggered a small magnitude 2.3 earthquake in 2011. A British Geological Survey report carried out by independent experts said the quakes were due to an “unusual combination of geology at the well site,” adding the conditions causing the minor earthquakes were “unlikely to occur again.”
The U.K. estimates it has 26 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Fracking in Great Britain will create 74,000 new jobs and safeguard another 100,000 energy consulting groups estimate. Fracking for oil has the potential to generate anywhere from $10 billion to $74.6 billion for the British economy and $26 billion in new tax revenue for the British government, according to studies, and could offer up to $16.5 million in benefits to local governments per fracking site.
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