LAST CHANCE to STOP the CUMBRIA COAL MINE

by South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition

LAST CHANCE to STOP the CUMBRIA COAL MINE

by South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition
South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition
Case Owner
SLACC is a Cumbrian environmental and community support charity. Maggie Mason, our lead on this case, is a SLACC member and an ex minerals and waste planning officer.
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South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition
Case Owner
SLACC is a Cumbrian environmental and community support charity. Maggie Mason, our lead on this case, is a SLACC member and an ex minerals and waste planning officer.
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Latest: Feb. 9, 2021

Cumbria County Council to reconsider coal mine decision

The huge outpouring of anger about the proposed coal mine at Whitehaven Cumbria, and the legal pressure applied by SLACCs legal team at Richard Buxton Solicitors have given objectors to the mine anot…

Read more

We are in a Climate Emergency, 

2020 was the joint hottest year on record. Average global surface temperatures rose to 1.25 degrees C (above the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900)  dangerously close to the 1.5C target set by the world’s nations to avoid the worst impacts. The Guardian - 8 .1.2021 {1}

 “Global emissions will need to be brought down to net zero within about the next 30 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C.” Prof Richard Betts: UK Met Office.

But Cumbria County Council has decided that a new deep coal mine, extracting nearly 3 million tonnes of coking coal, every year until 2050 will reduce global emissions! The UK Government seems to agree, as  Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for planning issues, has refused to "call in" the application  {2}  so there will be no Public Inquiry, and the local Council can proceed with the permission.

 It is still possible to stop the mine, and we urgently need your help to pursue a Judicial Review (JR) of Cumbria's decision.

Why this decision must be challenged

The principles at stake are huge, with global implications. The coal from the mine would release 9 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year until 2050. The UK Government is currently exhorting other nations to commit to steep emissions cuts by 2030 to meet Paris Agreement obligations to try to keep global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. Even the emissions from the mining operations, including "fugitive methane" appear to breach the UK's new commitment to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 {3). Approval of this mine  in 2021, the year of COP26 , will demolish the credibility of the UK's "climate leadership" and encourage other nations to adopt toothless and hypocritical targets, while emissions continue to rise.

Greta Thunberg hit the nail on the head.  "The UK government has decided not to intervene with the plans of opening a brand new English coal mine. This really shows the true meaning of so called “net zero 2050”. These vague, insufficient targets long into the future basically mean nothing today". Greta Thunberg { 4}  

Cumbria's own young people agree, and so does Professor Mike Berners-Lee, author of "How Bad are Bananas", and "The Burning Question". Amy Bray (18) and Mike both spoke to Border TV after Robert Jenrick's decision was announced. {5}


South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) already submitted detailed evidence and legally coherent arguments that this planning application should have been refused, even under current planning law and UK carbon reduction obligations. Three senior councillors on the planning committee agreed with us. 

Our legal team are currently re-assessing  potential grounds for Judicial Review as the first stage in a legal challenge. 

How much money is needed ?

We know there are thousands of ordinary people who understand that fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to avoid, (or at least reduce) the catastrophe for people and planet that is already unfolding. Some of you may be members of environmental groups who also objected to the Coal Mine application, but have now forwarded this link to you because they support this last chance to stop the Cumbria Coal Mine.   

Our initial target of £10,000 in the next 30 days is ambitious, but we need to apply to the courts within 6 weeks of the Council's decision. As part of that we need our barrister to assess the chances of success and our solicitors to prepare the case and represent us in court.

Please make a donation and share the link via social media and word of mouth..

 If Covid -19 is causing financial hardship please do not give more than you can afford. There are thousands of us

If we are granted permission to mount the JR, we may need as much as £40,000 more. We will update the target at that point.

Is a legal challenge likely to succeed?

Judicial Review of a decision is not based on a re-examination of the issues, but a decision can be unlawful if, for example, advice to the Councillors who make the decision is based on incorrect assumptions, contrary to the evidence available to the Council officers.  

We will have a clear idea when we receive our "Counsel's Opinion", but our legal team has been with us for 2 years, and they already have an in depth view of the case. We know that it is worth continuing on this next step.

SLACC's arguments to date.

The detailed technical comments and evidence SLACC have submitted  are on our website {6} but the  brief summary  below touches on some of the issues we have raised to date. Our legal team will be looking carefully at all these issues (and more) in the coming weeks.

The coal is said to be for European steel making, and Cumbria County Councils Planning Officers Report {7}rested on the mining companies claim that the need for coking coal in Europe would persist at the 2020 level until 2050, and that all the coal extracted would replace or "substitute" the equivalent amount from US mines (i.e. that US mines would close down once this mine opened). SLACC and many other objectors pointed out that US mines would seek new markets rather than close in order to gain some income from investment already committed.

The County Council admitted that the end use emissions of the coal were relevant but used the “substitution claim” to reach the extraordinary conclusion that the mine would lead to lower global emissions, a “Carbon Negative Coal Mine”. The Council’s argument was based on claimed savings in emissions from using UK coal instead of importing it from the US or Australia. 

SLACC disputed these claims, providing evidence from steel industry experts at the Materials Processing Institute (MPI)  and Professor Paul Ekins, a leading resource economist {8}

 Professor Ekins showed that a surplus of coal will reduce prices, increasing coal use and emissions further dis-incentivising decarbonisation of the steel industry , while MPI showed that lower carbon " greener " steel making methods that use much less (or no ) coal will significantly reduce the need for coal by 2030{7}.

The Council recognised that West Cumbria’s proposal to extract coal until 2070 was unreasonable but settled on an expiry date of December 2049.  SLACC argued that this did not fit the evidence, and that UK and global emissions need to reduce much more steeply if UK carbon obligations are to be met.

SLACC submitted a second objection on the 1st October 2020 {9}, and summarised the case against the mine in a statement to the County Council’s decision making committee on 2nd October 2020 {10)

We have argued that West Cumbria does need jobs, based a Green New Deal, but this mine will impact on Tourism, and the economic renaissance that is so badly needed.

 

 




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Update 4

South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition

Feb. 9, 2021

Cumbria County Council to reconsider coal mine decision

The huge outpouring of anger about the proposed coal mine at Whitehaven Cumbria, and the legal pressure applied by SLACCs legal team at Richard Buxton Solicitors have given objectors to the mine another chance to express their views.  Cumbria County Council have just announced that they will reconsider their (October 2020) decision to approve the mine. Read about it here  https://www.cwherald.com/news/165-million-cumbrian-coal-mine-decision-to-be-reconsidered-by-county-council/

Our legal team have written 3 times to Cumbria CC since the 6th January 2021, presenting the new information about the UK 6th Carbon Budget, and highlighting why the intervention from the Climate Change Committee means that Cumbria was wrong to conclude the mine would have ZERO negative impacts on the global climate. 

Cumbria County Council will almost certainly be seeking to justify a further decision to approve, as a way of defending themselves from a Judicial Review. Do not expect their planning officers to change their minds and advise Councillors to refuse this time. It is possible that the Committee meeting will be on the 19th February, and objectors will have little more than a week to prepare further objections and apply to speak at the Committee. 

Thanks to all our supporters. Lets hold firm and continue to oppose the mine.

Update 3

South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition

Feb. 5, 2021

Robert Jenrick now at risk of Legal Challenge

Public and scientific pressure continues to build on the UK Government to reconsider their most recent decision (29 January) and to "call in" the planning application and enable a Public Inquiry.  Richard Buxton Solicitors have still had no reply to their letter of the 2nd February, on SLACC’s behalf, to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government,  asking the SoS to confirm that all our previous submissions were taken into account, and give his reasons, for NOT calling in the planning application.

Our letter also says “Please note that if we do not receive a substantive response to this letter, our clients consider that the only avenue available to them
is likely to be to send a further letter in accordance with the pre-action protocol for judicial review”
.

We  enclosed the letter from the Climate Change Committee, and asked Jenrick to reconsider whether to call in the planning application in or not, taking the CCC letter into account. James Hansen's letter is further evidence that this is more than a local issue, and the joint NGO letter to Boris Johnson shows that this is deeply controversial. 

UK Government's blanket responses, refusing to change their mind, apparently whatever new evidence is presented, are hugely suspect legally and SLACC is now seriously considering whether to move towards a Judicial Review of Robert Jenrick's decision, rather than wait until Cumbria County Council issues it's Decision Notice. 

SLACC is a small environmental charity, and cannot do this without donations from you, the public. Although we have seen astounding support for our position, in unprecedented interventions from the UK and overseas, we have the "standing" to take legal challenges because we have opposed this mine from the first County Council Committee in March 2019. Please donate if you are able!

Update 2

South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition

Jan. 29, 2021

Lord Deben Chair of the Climate Change Committee makes the same points as SLACC!

Lord Deben's letter to Robert Jenrick echoes SLACC's points and raises hopes that there will be a Public Inquiry after all. Read it here - https://bit.ly/39uhnUL,






Update 1

South Lakes Action on Climate Change - towards transition

Jan. 14, 2021

Let's keep going!

Huge thanks all who have donated. We need to press on to the £50,000 "stretch" target. Every pound counts.

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