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Judicial review to challenge UK oil law

tCI Commentary

A judicial review of the government decision to allow exploratory oil drilling off the protected Dorset coastline will test UK legislation on public consultation relating to oil exploration and extraction.

The Seahorse Trust has been granted permission to review the decision to allow energy company Corallian to install a temporary exploration rig without adequate impact assessment and public consultation. As a result of the exploration in February and March this year, Corallion discovered oil reserves, which, if an exploitation licence is granted, would be extracted via horizontal long-reach drilling from existing facilities at Wytch farm, Poole Harbour, Europe’s biggest onshore oil facility.

The Seahorse Trust argues that the permission given to Corallion breached the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, as a proper EIA had not been completed before the drilling application and a subsequent extension were approved by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. When decisions were made, stakeholders argue they were not notified sufficiently well to allow them to make a challenge to the decision.

The Seahorse Trust now seeks a declaration from the Court that the UK Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipelines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 are not fit for purpose and need to be amended. The judicial review will challenge the lawfulness of the UK’s transposition of the EU EIA Directive to petroleum exploration and extraction, as well as the decisions made by the Secretary of State and the oil and gas authority relating to the Corallian case.



Campaigners have been granted a judicial review into the consent given for oil drilling in Poole Bay.

The Seahorse Trust has been given permission to review the government decision, made earlier this year, to allow energy firm Corallian to place a temporary oil rig off the Dorset coast. Trust founder Neil Garrick-Maidment sought a declaration from the court that the current petroleum production regulations need to be amended. Now there will be a two-day hearing involving the Secretary of State later this year.

Mr Garrick-Maidment said: “I am delighted with the judge’s decision. The law at the moment is not fit for purpose and now must be re-looked at. Although this drilling has already gone ahead, it is crucial that it cannot happen again. Ordinary people must be given the chance to challenge the granting of licenses to the oil industry and that the environmental impact assessments must be done correctly. Thank you to everyone who supported us, fundraised and who care.”

Corallian, which has declined to comment on the legal action, found reserves of oil during its exploration of the Colter South area in February and March. The Echo reported how Colter South could yield up to 15 million barrels of oil. At that time, Corallian said it was not seeking to extract the oil itself, and that the oil could be accessed via the existing facilities at Wytch Farm in Poole Harbour. Any future plans to drill for oil or gas would have to be sanctioned separately by the government.

Mr Garrick-Maidment said the exploratory drilling carried out earlier this year occurred during the seahorse breeding season. He also believes the noise from drilling causes the species stress and activates disease, while the sediment from the drilling impedes feeding. The Seahorse Trust says it wants to ensure that any future drilling in UK waters will be subject to “proper consultation and scrutiny” so that sensitive species, such as seahorses, are properly protected.

The trust believes the permission given to Corallian breaches the European Union’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.


This article originally appeared on Daily Echo

The Institute cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate, we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

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