On September 1st, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Uplift issued a pre-action letter to the Kwasi Kwarteng, advising him of a potential claim for judicial review, if he continues to mislead the public over his role in approving the Cambo field.
The letter claims that the UK Government is lawfully bound to take responsibility for the decision to approve or reject the Cambo oil field contrary to “claims that it cannot intervene”.
If the record is not corrected, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Uplift maintain the threat of a judicial review to take the matter further. This is a big move against the oft repeated claim that this is a matter for the OGA and the Minister is not involved.
Pre-action letter calls on BEIS to defend position on controversial oil field decision
The UK Government is lawfully bound to take responsibility for the decision to approve or reject the Cambo oil field contrary to claims that it “cannot intervene”, say campaigners.
In a pre-action letter to theBusiness Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, campaign groups Uplift and Friends of theEarth Scotland, challenge repeated official statements by BEIS that have been used to deflect calls for the government to reject proposals by Shell and Siccar Point Energy to start oil and gas production. The letter was written in the light of advice received from David Wolfe QC.
Tessa Khan, lawyer and director of Uplift said: “The government has repeatedly tried to shirk responsibility for this decision, claiming the process is controlled by the regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), and that it “cannot intervene”, but they are wrong.They can and must use the power they have to stop this new and damaging fossil fuel development.”
The letter outlines the government’s apparent misunderstanding of its legal position. In short, theEnergy Act (2016) allows the Secretary of State to give directions to the OGA that are “in the public interest”. The Secretary of State also must give their agreement before the OGA can give a project the go-ahead and only when they are satisfied that there will be no significant effect on the environment.
The Cambo heavy crude field off the coast of the Shetland Islands contains over 800 million barrels of oil, 170million of which are planned to be extracted in its first phase. This alone would create emissions equivalent to operating 18 coal-fired power stations fora year.
Tessa Khan says: “For a government that enthusiastically took back control from EU regulators, to be suddenly cowed by a UK regulator doesn’t make sense. Kwasi Kwarteng is bound by law to be involved in the decision to approve or reject the Cambo oil field. To claim otherwise is unlawful.”
Dr Richard Dixon, Friends of theEarth Scotland Director said: “The climate can't afford new oil and gas projects like the Cambo field which would be spewing devastating climate pollution for decades. The recent code red climate warning makes it absolutely clear that we must urgently transition away from fossil fuels if we are to limit further climate breakdown. The Government does have the power to stop Cambo and it must use that power instead of trying to wash its hands of this dirty development.“