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INEOS seeks judicial review of Scottish Government’s fracking “ban”

INEOS Shale announced on 9 January 2018 that (with its co-venture partner Reach) it has lodged a petition for judicial review of the Scottish Government’s decision to “ban” onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland.

MSPs voted in October 2017 to endorse the Scottish Government’s “effective ban” on fracking, under which the moratorium on the practice that has been in place since 2015 will continue indefinitely.

INEOS operates the Grangemouth petrochemical plant and holds fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of Scotland.

In October, Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse explained that 99% of the 60,500 consultation responses on the issue supported a ban, showing that "there is no social licence for unconventional oil and gas to be taken forward at this time". The Scottish Government subsequently explained in a position statement (available here) that strategic environmental assessment of the policy would conclude in summer 2018, after which the policy would be finalised. The Scottish Government intends to embed its position in the next iteration of the National Planning Framework, currently expected in 2020. 

INEOS’s position is that an expert report commissioned by the Scottish Government had concluded that shale gas could be produced safely. It alleges that the errors made in the decision-making process include a failure to adhere to proper statutory process and a misuse of ministerial power.

Tom Pickering, Operations Director at INEOS Shale, said: “INEOS, Reach and other operators have invested significantly in unconventional development over the years, against a supportive regulatory and planning backdrop. 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”.