Ineos launch ‘desperate’ legal challenge to overturn fracking ban

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Grangemouth petrochemical giant Ineos is taking legal action against the Scottish Government’s decision to ban fracking.

The company stated it had “serious concerns” over the legitimacy of the government’s decision in October last year to effectively ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is better known.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs last year the moratorium, enforced via planning powers, which dated as far back as 2015 would continue “indefinitely” after consultations showed “overwhelming” opposition to fracking from the public.

Labour and the Greens called for the ban to be put down in legislation, but Mr Wheelhouse stated the existing method was “sufficiently robust”.

At the time Ineos, which holds fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of Scotland, said the government’s decision was “a major blow to Scottish science and the engineering industry”.

Now Tom Pickering, Ineos operations manager, said the company had “no option” but to raise a legal challenge.

He said: “We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.

“Ineos 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.”

The decision to appeal against the ruling was met with disappointment.

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said: “This is an extremely disappointing action from Ineos – people across Scotland made perfectly clear that they don’t want fracking to happen and it was right for the Scottish Government to take the action it did to implement a ban.

“I’m sure that my disappointment in this decision by Ineos will be shared by the majority of people in Falkirk district and across Scotland.”

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, added: “This is a desperate attempt by Ineos to overthrow a decision by the Scottish government which enjoyed widespread public support.

“The UK government’s latest figures have shown that the amount of electricity generated by burning gas is expected to half by 2025, and by then renewables will have overtaken gas as Britain’s main power source.

“Fracked gas has no place in our energy future, especially in a country like Scotland that’s a world leader in renewable energy.”