Fracking And The Precautionary Principle

By Emily Shirley

As public concern over fracking continues, ELF member Emily Shirley reports on a recent legal challenge on climate change grounds

A key 2017 case concerning climate change and the precautionary principle was heard in the Administrative Court in Manchester on the 15th and 16th March.

Gayzer Frackman, from the Fylde in Lancashire, challenged the legality of the Secretary of State’s decision to permit fracking to begin in Lancashire on climate change grounds and the precautionary principle.

Gayzer was much assisted by ELF who helped to find him a legal team to work on the case. Although, Gayzer was unsuccessful in Manchester, he has now launched a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal. The Judge’s reasons for dismissing Gayzer’s case are not considered robust.

Back in 2011, Gayzer was working as a children’s entertainer and not engaged in any campaigning activities. However, once his property was damaged by the two earthquakes caused by fracking nearby, he immersed himself in fracking science, became an expert and worked with others at home and across the country opposing the onslaught of fracking applications.

He was delighted when their hard efforts resulted in Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse the fracking applications in question. Unfortunately, the Government had other plans and last October (2016), after an inquiry, the Secretary of State gave permission to Cuadrilla to frack Preston New Road, a site considered to be the kick-start to a fracking industry in the UK.

Whereas there has been little climate litigation here so far, and the approach taken to the precautionary principle has been less than generous in UK courts, climate litigation is on the rise globally.

Gayzer’s case was guided in part by the ongoing climate litigation in the US brought by Our Children’s Trust and by Urgenda in Holland.

Gayzer’s case will now potentially lead the way and many more cases on climate change and the precautionary principle will follow to secure environmental and climate justice.