Friends of the Earth joins in legal challenge to Surrey oil drilling

Sarah Finch at Horse Hill

The environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has been granted permission to take part in a legal challenge over the climate impacts of oil production.

Local campaigner Sarah Finch is challenging the legality of Surrey County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for four new oil wells and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill, near Horley.

The combustion of the oil produced at Horse Hill could add more than 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere over a 20-year period. Sarah is arguing that the Council should have taken this, and the government’s Net Zero target for carbon emissions, into account when deciding on the application.

At the time of the decision, a report by planning officers concluded that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the site’s operation (direct emissions) would not “give rise to significant impacts on the climate”. The report did not consider the emissions resulting from the burning of the oil (indirect emissions).

Katie de Kauwe

Friends of the Earth in-house lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, Friends of the Earth in-house lawyer, said: “We are intervening in these proceedings because there is a vitally important issue at stake: that the full climate impacts of fossil fuel projects must be environmentally assessed.

“If this doesn’t happen, then how are we going to tackle the climate crisis? We believe that both common sense and the law say that carbon emissions from the actual use of the oil from the Horse Hill wells cannot be left out of the equation when deciding whether to grant planning permission. Yet that is what happened here.”

The hearing will take place on 17 & 18 November 2020.