Supreme Court rules oil project approval unlawful due to emissions oversight

By Staff
2 Min Read

The Supreme Court has ruled that Surrey County Council acted unlawfully in granting planning permission for an oil production project without considering the full climate impact of burning the oil from the new wells.

This decision is expected to affect future UK oil and gas projects.

The case, brought by Sarah Finch on behalf of campaigners, challenged the council’s decision to approve the Horse Hill oil well expansion in 2019.

The council stated that it believed it had adhered to planning law at the time.

The Supreme Court’s ruling emphasised that planning authorities must consider the downstream greenhouse gas emissions, which result from the use of the extracted oil.

The court found that the environmental impact assessment should have included not only the emissions from constructing the wells but also those from burning the oil, known as downstream emissions.

This ruling sets a precedent for future projects, requiring companies to account for the full climate impact of their operations.

In a three-to-two decision, the judges agreed that the emissions from burning the oil were a direct result of the project and should have been considered.

Lord Leggatt stated that it was inevitable the oil would be burned, making the resulting greenhouse gas emissions a straightforward outcome of the project.

The Horse Hill wells are expected to produce 3.3 million tonnes of crude oil over 20 years, which would result in over ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Friends of the Earth has estimated these figures, highlighting the significant environmental impact.

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