This morning's launch of wrongmove.org and the Not for Shale legal block certainly seemed to hit a nerve in the pro-fracking world! We've been collecting defensive responses from government and industry since about midday, and felt we should send a volley back to those who've been shaken into such uncharacteristically immediate replies.
Here's a quick he said, she said between them and us:
"This is not a block to shale gas development in the UK. There is flexibility about where to locate a drilling rig to access any oil or gas resources.
”Like any other industrial activity, oil and gas operations will normally require the agreement of the landowners whose land is used. Oil or gas developers will negotiate with landowners as necessary and agree terms for the access they require.”
Its great news that DECC agrees with the Greenpeace analysis of the law. This sounds like confirmation that fracking companies will not frack without express permission from those living above it. Does this mean the government will not be bringing in legislation to revoke the rights of homeowners? Or is that word 'normally' ringing alarm bells for you too? We've been calling on @DECCgovuk to confirm what they mean here.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla CEO, said:
"This country pioneered subsurface infrastructure. All of our existing subsurface underground rail, water, gas, telecommunications and electric development has historically succeeded in legal coexistence with surface property rights. Newer technology such as geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage will also have to negotiate this. We are confident that new subsurface shale development that safely offers energy security, skilled jobs and community benefits will in due course be no different."
“Its clear from this statement that Cuadrilla knows that fracking is not like other subsurface industries. It’s a new technology, meaning unlike water pipes there is no legal statutory consent set up for fracking as there is for water pipes. Also unlike water pipes, fracking will risk our water supply rather than facilitate it. To revoke these rights from residents will require a change in the law or court order. Cuadrilla might want to take professional legal advice on this issue, because local communities across the country certainly are.”
The UK Onshore Operators Group said:
“This announcement today by Greenpeace is extremely misleading. Operators in this country are abiding by the law which states that activities at depths of over a mile under the ground do not impact landowners, however in line with the law, operators will inform all landowners in a very clear and transparent manner.”
“Underground working is hardly something that is employed by just the oil and gas industry but includes, pipelines, fibre optics, geothermal energy and transport tunnelling to name but a few.”
As with DECC and Cuadrilla's responses, UKOOG's response in no way challenges Greenpeace's legal analysis, which is that if a landowner has expressed opposition to fracking under their property, however deep, to frack there would be trespass. In fact it reinforces it. Greenpeace has never suggested that companies are currently in breach of the law, only that if they frack under property when the owner has objected, and they have not obtained a statutory right through the courts, they would be."
And on Twitter, Greg Barker @GregBarkerMP had a little dig at us:
@GreenpeaceUK A global shift from coal to responsible gas is vital to avert dangerous #ClimateChange stoking up NIMBY-ism is deeply myopic!
The Minister's own chief scientific advisor in a report for his own department warned that unless a new global deal is reached shale "would work against global efforts on climate change." The International Energy Agency say that around half of proven gas reserves need to stay in the ground. In short, there is nothing NIMBY in standing up for the rights of local communities to try and protect their local environment and stop catastrophic climate change.
In sum, Wrongmove.org is definitely shaking things up on the fracking front. So far not one of these well-funded organisations has found a legal opinion to contradict ours. Looks like wrongmove has unearthed quite the legal mess for the UK's fracking companies.