Today, after three and a half weeks of evidence, closing arguments were made in an inquiry into an application to extract 3 million tonnes of coal from an opencast mine in the hinterland of Druridge Bay in Northumberland.
The application was called in for determination by the Secretary of State who has asked to be informed, inter alia, on the extent to which the proposal is consistent with:
(a) Government policies for meeting the challenge of climate change
(b) The Written Ministerial Statement on the Central Government’s commitment to replace coal fired power stations with gas, as made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on 18 November 2015;
(c) The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with the Department’s amended online guidance on renewable and low carbon energy.
It is the first time the Secretary of State has called in an application for the extraction of a fossil fuel in order to be informed about the downstream environmental effects of burning that fuel. The Applicant has argued that the coal is needed primarily to meet the demand for coal fired power stations between 2018 and 2025. Opponents, led by Friends of the Earth, have argued that there is no need for more indigenous coal and that the claimed benefits are outweighed by the adverse environmental effects.
Nathalie Lieven QC appeared on behalf of the Applicant.
Paul Brown QC and Toby Fisher appeared for Friends of the Earth.