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London Court Allows Legal Challenge of UK Oil and Gas Drilling Plan

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April 26, 2023

By Gautam Naik (Bloomberg) —

London’s High Court has given Greenpeace permission for a judicial review of the UK government’s decision to open a new licensing round for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

The decision was given by Judge Waksman, a spokesperson for the court said on Wednesday. The UK wants to develop offshore areas for natural gas and oil production to help ease the energy-supply crunch. Greenpeace estimates that fossil-fuel companies have already submitted more than 100 licenses to take advantage of the government’s plan.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Greenpeace says the government should account for emissions not just from the extraction process but also from the eventual burning of the oil and gas. “This is a glaring omission from the government’s decision making,” the nonprofit said. It estimates that the consumption of the fossil fuels would amount to more than 80% of the total emissions generated from the new licenses.

“Ministers will now be forced to justify in front of a judge why they want to unleash a new drilling frenzy in the North Sea against the advice of leading scientists and the UN chief, without assessing the climate impact,” said Philip Evans, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

The UK is encouraging applicants to seek licenses in four areas in the Southern North Sea where the North Sea Transition Authority sees the best chance of building out production fast. However, it’s unclear whether oil and gas will flow from the sites any time soon. Meaningful production would probably take a decade to come online, according to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie. 

Former Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said last year that the UK’s push for energy independence “means exploiting the full potential of our North Sea assets to boost domestic production.”

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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