Don't let the Oil and Gas Industry Offload Clean Up Costs on Taxpayers
Don't let the Oil and Gas Industry Offload Clean Up Costs on Taxpayers
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Latest: Feb. 25, 2020
We’re going to court!
The High Court has ordered a hearing of our Judicial Review. Please help us reach our fundraising target of £35,000 and protect communities around the UK from the clean-up costs of onshore oil …Read more
Who am I?
I'm Eddie Thornton, I grew up a few miles from the sites currently under licence by Third Energy for oil and gas drilling. I have been campaigning against the Onshore fracking industry for years in North Yorkshire and other licence areas.
In July 2019, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) allowed the sale of Third Energy to York Energy, a company that was set up only months before and which appears to have total share capital of only £10.00. That’s right – a tenner!
The OGA has a duty under the law to consider whether approving such sales will leave the taxpayers holding the bag for the costs to clean up after these companies if they duck their duties or go bust. But the OGA claims it did not need to approve the change of control of Third Energy's licence to drill and frack its wells.
We are challenging this decision as my legal team consider that the OGA have acted unlawfully in determining that no approval was needed and conducting a shoddy and limited financial analysis.
The OGA has not said who will pick up the bill for decommissioning 20 well pads, 150km of pipelines and Knapton Power station if York Energy fails, but it’s not hard to see that it will almost certainly be left to us – the taxpaying public.
In the U.S., the government has been left with hundreds of millions of dollars of liabilities, as companies take what profits they can and abandon dirty fracking wells to corporate shells without the resources to safely plug the wells, remove the infrastructure and clean up the resulting mess.
Third Energy did not seek the OGA's written permission for the change of Control of the licence, nor did the OGA request an application for Change of Control of ownership to York Energy. Under the OGA's own guidance, this constitutes a very serious breach of the licence, requiring immediate revocation.
Should the challenge be successful, the OGA would have to reconsider its position and would have to justify any decision not to revoke the remaining oil and gas licences that were part of the Third Energy/York Energy deal.
How much we are raising and why?
Currently, we are raising £10,000. The case will cost more than this, but we are setting this initial amount to make sure that our target is achieved – this will allow our legal team to prepare and file the court papers. Our full stretch target is £35,000 so please give whatever you can. Even a small amount makes a big difference!
I'd like to thank my legal team-Estelle Dehon at Cornerstone Barristers, Marc Willers QC at Garden Court Chambers, and Matthew McFeeley and Paul Stookes, instructing solicitors at Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law, and the researchers and volunteers who have assisted in this case.
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Feb. 25, 2020
We’re going to court!
The High Court has ordered a hearing of our Judicial Review. Please help us reach our fundraising target of £35,000 and protect communities around the UK from the clean-up costs of onshore oil and gas.
A judge has ordered a rolled-up hearing of our legal challenge against the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which means the grounds of our argument will be heard in a full High Court hearing lasting on to two days.
In granting the hearing, Judge Supperstone also permitted a fourth and pivotal ground of claim, which arose due to OGA disclosures made during the case. The OGA believes it is not responsible for ensuring that decommissioning liabilities are met by the operators, despite its clear statutory duty to protect the taxpayer!
Our legal team will argue that the Oil and Gas Authority:
- Misinterpreted the legislation that governs the change of control of petroleum licences
- Failed to assess financial capability of the companies in the sale of Third Energy
- Failed to undertake all aspects of the proper financial capability assessment
- Failed to take into account the serious risk that change of control would lead to Third Energy Gas being unable to pay for decommissioning activity when it falls due
This comes on the same day that news broke that government ministers intervened on behalf of Barclays bank in the takeover of Third Energy.
Our legal team is confident that the Oil and Gas Authority failed to follow the law when waving through the takeover. Estelle Dehon of Cornerstone Barristers will be representing me alongside Marc Willers QC, of Garden Court Chambers.
Ms. Dehon said:
“The sale of Third Energy shows how vital it is for there to be proper financial regulation of fracking companies. The fracking boom has been built on low interest rates feeding capital into high risk ventures with shaky cash-flows and questionable economics. Mr Thornton’s claim has uncovered that, despite the OGA identifying a “foreseeable risk” that, after the transaction, Third Energy “will be unable to pay for decommissioning activity when it falls due and despite informing DBEIS that “[t]here are… risks associated with allowing the Transaction… and the OGA cannot provide any assurance that [Third Energy] will ultimately be able to meet its licence commitments, including decommissioning”, the OGA supported the sale. This is not robust regulation. Nor was it lawful, given the OGA’s legal duty to assess whether fracking companies have financial capacity to discharge their decommissioning obligations.
We need to raise £35,000 to pay our legal fees. Please help us bring our case to the High Court.
Oct. 23, 2019
Today we filed our High Court Challenge
Last week, on my birthday we reached our initial fundraising target of £10,000 and Today our lawyers filed our legal challenge against the Oil and Gas Authority!
Donations from more than 200 people have allowed us to initiate proceedings and instruct a public finances expert.
To take this all the way to the High Court we're going to need more funds, so we've raised our target to £35,000. It's a heck of a lot of money but it will be well spent when we win!
Here’s a link to the BBC report on our legal challenge. Please share the video and our fundraising page and help us take the case to the High Court
Thank you so much for helping us get this far
Oct. 12, 2019
We’re getting close!
Thank you so much to the 164 (and counting) people who have pledged to help our legal case against the Oil and Gas Authority. We’ve almost made it to 75% of our £10,000 target
Right now, our lawyers are drafting papers to initiate proceedings against the OGA, so we need a big push to meet our fundraising target.
Please continue to share our Crowd Justice page on social media. It really helps - the vast majority of pledges have come through Facebook. Also, don’t forget that you can pledge twice (!).
It would be really good to also reach people by email, so please consider sending the link with the following message to anyone interested in climate change and social justice.
Thank you for helping us get this far.
Suggested text for sharing -
Don’t let the oil and gas industry offload clean-up costs on taxpayers
My CrowdJustice page is now live on https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/dont-let-the-taxpayer-pay-to-clean-up-fracking/.
We are fundraising to take legal action against the Oil and Gas Authority for failing in its duty to protect the taxpayers from the cost of decommissioning oil and gas sites. This is an issue that affects any area of the UK where there is an onshore drilling licence.
When York Energy took over 100% of Third Energy shares, The OGA failed to apply the law specified in their regulations. This could leave the taxpayer picking up a multi-million pound bill to decommission the Third Energy gas infrastructure. My legal tam believes that the OGA should have undertaken a proper assessment of the new company, who we can see only has £10 on the books.
We need to hold the government to account and you can help by taking action today
· Pledge any amount you can via https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/dont-let-the-taxpayer-pay-to-clean-up-fracking/.
· Share the page on all your social media.
· Ask family, friends, work colleagues and groups to consider pledging to the CrowdJustice page via the above link and for them to share with their family friends etc. Ask each recipient to share with 5-10 people or more, with the link to our page.
We have reached 75% of our initial target. With another big push, we can reach our £10,000 goal.
Thank you very much.
Oct. 3, 2019
What a day! A fantastic opening 12 hours. Thank you for the generous pledges.
Well that has been an amazing day. A step into uncertainty then suddenly I am much more confidant we can make the target. Thank you all who have shared and pledged so generously. We are happy with any donation, large or small, it all helps. You dont even need to publish your name. It was very heart warming to see the total inching up to a tantalising £2918 so I expect it will cross the £3000 threshold before the bedtime. Thank you for the pledges which all help to get Eddie into Court.
The pledges will not be taken from your bank account until we cross the target of £10,000 so please be aware. When we do reach that level the money is taken from your card and transferred to start the payments to solicitors and barristers. The process then has further targets but all the money donated then will go towards the legal case, it is only the first £10 target that is make or break.
It is hugely helpful if you can talk to people about the case, share the link to the CrowdJustice page and contact family friends and groups to encourage them to support. Please use your social media to inform your followers and beyond that this case is live and in need of their support.
Thank you to all who have helped us get this far, and for all of you who can promote this further.
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