Greenpeace Launches Fracking Legal Challenge

Campaigning Group Warns Drilling Could Amount To Trespass

18.10.2013

Global campaigning group Greenpeace has launched a legal challenge in relation to fracking in England this week, outlining that it hopes thousands will join the cause and prevent the activity in a range of areas.

The organisation has confirmed it is basing its legal action on the plans of energy companies to drill horizontally under homes, with the body arguing that the current law – specifically the 2010 case of Bocardo SA v Star Energy – means that rights over land extend to all of the ground beneath it.

Anna Jones, senior campaigner for Greenpeace, said that such drilling without permission would ultimately be a trespass, adding: “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.”

Eve McNamara, a resident near the Banks site in Lancashire where Cuadrilla plans to drill, added: “I’m joining the legal block because fracking will be an absolute disaster for Lancashire. I’ve tried every other method, but the Government and Cuadrilla are just ploughing ahead.”

Fracking has been in the spotlight for a number of weeks, particularly after high-profile protests in Balcombe, West Sussex to prevent test drilling in the area.

Expert Opinion
The issue of who owns the soil beneath a piece of land relies on careful consideration of a number of documents, particularly historic title deeds.

“However, if the surface owner does own the soil then the case of Star Energy referred to by Greenpeace found a technical trespass in circumstances where pipes for the extraction of oil were drilled between 800 and 2,800 feet below the surface.

“That said, the court found that no actual damage had occurred and therefore awarded only nominal damages of £1,000.

“In my view, given the much talked-about energy crisis and huge financial gains of fracking, it is likely that the Government would introduce legislation to stop such trespass actions preventing activity at a deep enough level to avoid damage to the surface.”
Christopher Perrin, Partner