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Friends of the Earth challenge Lancashire fracking in High Court

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Friends of the Earth is suing the Environment Agency for failing to take the best course of action to protect Lancashire’s environment from fracking.

Friends of the Earth are challenging a permit granted by the Environment Agency (EA) to allow fracking in Lancashire in the High Court today. The EA has a legal duty to promote the use of the ‘best available techniques’ for reducing the environmental impact of fracking. Friends of the Earth believes the EA did not fulfil this duty with regard to the treatment of fracking flowback fluid.

These are the reasons that the judicial review has been sought:

  • Flowback fluid – the fluid that flows back out of the well following the high-pressure injection of fracking fluid – is the largest waste stream produced by fracking. It must either be reused or, because it will be contaminated, taken off-site for treatment at specialist waste facilities. Cuadrilla estimates that 22,000m3 of flowback fluid will need to be removed from the Preston New Road site by tanker
  • Friends of the Earth believes that the EA should have considered the use of a technique called ‘electrocoagulation’ when it issued a permit to Cuadrilla in December 2017. Electrocoagulation has the potential to produce a ‘cleaner’ flowback fluid, facilitating reuse and thereby reducing the quantity of fresh water that will need be needed. However the Environment Agency refused to consider its use.

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said:

“All along, the government stated that gold standard regulation would make fracking ok, but we believe our case, and the reality of what’s happening at Preston New Road, shows the opposite.

“They should be putting in place the best possible regulation to ensure that people, and the environment are protected.

“How can the government be considering rolling fracking out across the country, when it can’t be properly regulated at even one site? Isn’t it time the government gives up on fracking and backs renewables instead.”

Fracking at the Preston New Road site started in mid-October. There were 36 small earthquakes in the following three weeks after fracking began.

Today’s hearing will cover both permission for the case to proceed, and the substantive case, if permission is granted. The judgement is expected to be published in a few weeks.


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