Ineos in legal bid to challenge fracking ban

9 January 2018, 14:33


The Scottish Government's fracking ban is facing a legal challenge from petrochemical giant Ineos.

The Grangemouth owner said it would seek a judicial review of the "unlawful" ban, arguing there were "very serious errors" in the decision-making process.

A moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique had been in place in Scotland since 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''.

At the time, he said 99% 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''.

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 £1 billion for local communities.

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.

Mr Pickering added: "Natural gas keeps the power on and homes warm in Scotland as with the rest of the UK, and shale has the potential not only to meet these needs but also to have a positive impact on the economy and energy security.

"Ineos, Reach and other operators have invested significantly in unconventional development over the years, against a supportive regulatory and planning backdrop.

"If Scotland wants to continue to be considered as a serious place to do business, then it cannot simply remove the policy support that attracted that investment in the first place without proper procedures being followed and without the offer of appropriate financial compensation.

"In the light of these failings, Ineos has been left with no option other than to raise this legal challenge."