Ineos Criticized for National Trust Lawsuit
Environmental advocacy groups across the UK and beyond are joining together to protest Ineos’ plans to sue the charity National Trust to allow seismic testing in Nottinghamshire’s Clumber Park as a prelude to shale gas exploration.
National, international and local groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the WWF, along with the action groups such as those of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré, have signed a letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May protesting the Ineos plan.
In February, the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) gave Ineos Shale the green light to sue the charity in the High Court, to force it to grant access to the park, where it says geophysical studies are necessary before exploration can begin.
Ineos is the UK’s largest holder of licenses for shale gas exploration. No fracking licenses have been awarded as yet, as exploration has been held up by protests and a general lack of enthusiasm in local communities. It is thus more than uncertain how big reserves are.
Up to now, the charity has declined to engage with the company, despite threats of legal action. The Trust has stressed that it has “no wish for our land to play any part in extracting gas or oil,” as it is already seeing the impacts of climate change at many of its properties.
The organizations argue similarly, saying that fracking is an “extremely risky” technique that is “deeply unpopular,” and that there is “no need for shale gas.”
Ineos has labeled the letter “naive,” asserting that two weeks ago Britain “almost ran out of gas.” While the campaigners’ letter calls for more cleaner energy “sometime in the future, in the real world,” Ineos said, “our energy is essential to every aspect of life. We have to keep the lights on. We can’t leave it to crossed fingers and magical thinking.”
In chorus with other UK gas suppliers, the Swiss-headquartered group recently used record prices in the wake of a cold spell as a handle to urge the British government to improve energy security by producing more gas at home rather than relying on imports.
Another firm seeks injunction against shale protest
Ineos last year obtained an injunction from Britain’s High Court – renewed several times – prohibiting “unlawful acts” by protestors at its shale gas exploration sites. Now another company, UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), has used the chemical group’s example to apply for a broad injunction to prevent campaigners from mounting protests that it would “unlawfully interfere” with its oil operations.
The application, due to be heard on Mar. 19, would cover all campaigners who organize protests at the firm’s three sites in southeast England. If the injunction is granted, anyone breaking its rules could be jailed, fined or have assets seized. Environmental groups have condemned such moves, saying that companies are increasingly attempting to use a heavy-handed legal weapon to silence dissent.
Echoing Ineos’ argument, UKOG said it had been compelled to take legal action to protect itself, its supply chain and landlords from “threats and unlawful conduct from activists, who are intent on preventing us from going about our lawful business.”