Greenpeace has launched a legal challenge to fracking (drilling for shale gas) in England, in a move it says could halt "reckless and presumptuous" plans for shale gas extraction across the country.
It made the announcement at a joint press conference in Lancashire that included people whose homes are in the firing line of potential fracking sites.
Greenpeace expects thousands of people to join the legal block, creating a patchwork of "no-go" areas for the fracking industry across the country.
The legal case is based on fracking companies’ plans to drill horizontally under people’s homes; something Greenpeace says would be unlawful if they do not have permission.
"Under English law, if you own land, your rights extend to all the ground beneath it. That means if someone drills under your home without permission it is trespass," said Greenpeace senior campaigner Anna Jones.
"To avoid being liable for trespass, drillers would need landowners’ permission. And this case is about people explicitly declaring they do not give that permission. This will make it extremely difficult for companies to move ahead with any horizontal drilling plans." Lawyer and Harrison Grant partner Kate Harrison commented: "The common law on this is clear. If fracking companies don’t seek and receive permission for drilling under people’s homes they will be liable for trespass. Cuadrilla and other companies would do well to respect people’s rights and not push on with drilling plans where they’re not wanted."
The industry is understood to have asked the Government to introduce legislation that would over-ride this requirement and remove landowners’ rights, but this would be hugely controversial and take time.
Anyone living in an area that the government is considering for oil and gas drilling and possible fracking can join the block. The government is currently consulting on the 14th onshore licensing round for oil and gas – which could next year put over two thirds of the country up for licence for oil and gas exploration and possible fracking.
Anna Jones said fracking was a desperate ploy by the Conservative-led Government to keep the UK hooked on fossil fuels, at a time when we should be moving towards cleaner, safer energy sources.