The US has a long history of these types of anti-fossil fuel laws.
Here are some previous examples of these tactics from the US:
The continued use of lawfare by activists around the world when they fail through policy and legislation is now taking center stage in the UK.
The future of fossil fuels in the UK is in the spotlight this week, with the Horse Hill oil exploration case ending up in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. As the BBC reports, this is:
“A challenge that could mean the end of new fossil fuel projects in the UK.”
This case is brought by a Surrey woman, Sarah Finch, who is challenging the legality of a local oil drilling permit.
The basis of the claim lies in the consideration of “downstream emissions” when approving building permits. As the BBC calls them:
“the greenhouse gas emissions released when the oil is used.”
Finch argues that Surrey County Council failed to consider the impact of such emissions, which they estimate could amount to 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
In her argument, Finch draws an analogy, saying:
“Planning authorities say they don’t need to consider the climate impact of actually burning the oil – only the impact of drilling.” It’s like saying a chocolate cake is low in calories as long as you don’t eat it.”
However, in a response from Surrey County Council, a spokesman stated:
“The District Council has a duty to decide planning applications in accordance with the Development Plan, the National Planning Framework, national policy and other relevant considerations as set out in legislation and case law.”
You know, in democratic societies, politics is done quite normally.
As campaigners seek to halt all fossil fuel extraction, it is a legal strategy with national implications that extend beyond Surrey’s borders. Katie de Kauwe, an attorney for Friends of the Earth, noted:
“Developers are struggling with lawsuits like this because they are very concerned that when decision makers are confronted with the total carbon impact of these projects, which is the downstream emissions, they will reconsider giving them building permits.”
When they fail to deny drilling permits nationally, these activists try to force local governments to comply.
The importance of the case is heightened by the involvement of outside groups, who have been asked by the court to provide additional evidence. These include West Cumbria Mining, a company that recently received permission to open the UK’s first new coal mine in 40 years. The Environmental Protection Agency also intervenes for the first time, stating that it is doing so because this is the case
“Wants legal clarity on how decision makers conduct environmental impact assessments when evaluating fossil fuel projects.”
The Horse Hill case underscores the complexity of litigation in the power generation space. The outcome of this case could set an important precedent for how these projects will be evaluated and either given the green light or banned in the future.
A decision by the judges is expected to take three to six months.