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Environment

UK Government Fracking Rules Are ‘Unlawful’ and Fail to Consider Science, Says High Court

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Plans to expand fracking, the controversial process used to extract oil and gas from shale rock, just hit a stumbling block in England. Fracking releases greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere and, according to activists, has the potential to harm the UK’s ability to meet its climate targets — undermining progress for Global Goal No.7 to end reliance on fossil fuels with clean and affordable energy. Take action on the consequences of climate change here.

After the British government attempted to make it easier to kickstart new fracking projects with reinvented guidelines, campaigning group Talk Fracking challenged them in court — and on Wednesday, the group won.

It's a big win for activists, and will make it easier for anti-fracking campaigners to frustrate efforts to expand the drilling process in England.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

The BBC reports that UK ministers had been telling local councils that fracking could help fight climate change — but Talk Fracking, represented by law firm Leigh Day, argued that such advice willfully ignored scientific evidence that fracking makes global warming worse. 

The judgement ruled that the scientific evidence was “never in fact considered relevant or taken into account” by the government. It essentially means that campaigners can now use climate change as a reason to object to planning permission for new fracking sites in England, according to the Guardian.

ICYMI, fracking is the process that breaks into the earth with high pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and gas. The natural gas released includes methane, a greenhouse gas which when leaked into the atmosphere can increase global temperatures. If you’ve been watching the news over the last decade, you know what happens next.

But back to the case. In addition to pointing to overlooked evidence, Talk Fracking argued that a public consultation carried out by the government failed to live up to legal standards. The judgement agreed that the consultation was “unlawful” and “flawed in its design and processes.”

“It’s fantastic news to be victorious this morning,” said Joe Corré from Talk Fracking, on Wednesday. “I’m very pleased that the court has confirmed that the government has behaved irresponsibly and recklessly with our democratic rulebook."

Read More: Fracking Paused — and Resumed — Once More After Drilling Provoked Another Earthquake

“Their consultation was a farce,” Corré continued. “Their written ministerial statement claim that fracking is a bridge to low carbon economy is not based on scientific evidence. This has been exposed by us taking them to court.”

Fracking is also proven to cause earthquakes and pollute water supplies.

"We note the judgment in the case brought by Talk Fracking, and will now consider our next steps,” said a spokesperson from the Department of Housing, Communities, and Local Government in response to the ruling. "Environmental protections are at the heart of our new planning rulebook, setting clear expectations for future development."

It’s not the first time the government has been accused of overlooking the science on fracking. Global Citizen reported in October 2018 that James Hansen, known as the “father of climate science,” wrote to Conservative MP and energy minister Claire Perry to warn her that fracking will contribute to “climate breakdown.”

“The science is crystal clear, we need to phase out fossil fuels starting with the most damaging, the unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and fracking,” Hansen told the Observer.

Fracking is already banned in Scotland and Wales, and across the UK just 16% of people supported the process in 2017, according to an annual study by the Business and Energy Department.