EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Energy group Ineos has applied to launch a legal challenge to the Scottish government’s ban on onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland, known as “fracking”, arguing the ban was imposed unlawfully.
Scotland decided to outlaw fracking in October after a public consultation found overwhelming opposition to the practice.
However, Ineos said that decision flew in the face of other expert reports which concluded that shale gas could be produced safely and has applied for a judicial review.
The application will be heard at the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court.
“The (Scottish government‘s) 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,” said Tom Pickering, Operations Director at Ineos Shale.
Ineos said it had concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and alleged serious errors in the decision-making process, adding there had been a failure to adhere to proper statutory process and a misuse of ministerial power.
There was no immediate comment from the Scottish government.Scotland imposed a moratorium on fracking, the process of fracturing underground shale rock to release gas and oil, in 2015. That decision was extended last autumn after a large survey of public opinion, in which 60,000 people took part, found 99 percent opposed fracking.
However expert opinion consulted as part of the government’s report also found that the regulatory framework was “largely in place” to control the potential environmental impacts.
Ineos said that, having attracted investment for fracking, the ban would mean the Scottish government had to compensate the companies concerned.
“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,” Pickering said.
Supporters of fracking say it could offset the decline in North Sea oil reserves and boost the Scottish economy.
Britain is estimated to have substantial amounts of shale gas trapped in underground rocks but despite support from the central government in London, progress has been slow as environmentalists and local communities lobby against fracking.
Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison