The High Court has today handed down a judgment refusing an environmental campaigner permission to seek judicial review of a decision of the Oil and Gas Authority concerning the change in control of a company licensed to search and bore for natural gas. The judgment raises issues concerning responsibility for decommissioning onshore fracking assets.
The claimant argued that the Oil and Gas Authority had erred insofar as it should have treated the relevant corporate transaction as a licence assignment rather than a change of control under the relevant statutory scheme; and that the Oil and Gas Authority had failed to consider that the company might have insufficient funds to decommission its fracking assets following the transaction.
Mr Justice Robin Knowles dismissed these arguments following a rolled-up hearing, holding that: (i) the transaction was not an assignment but a change of control under the statutory scheme; (ii) the Oil and Gas Authority had considered the risk that the company might not be able to fund decommissioning liabilities; and (iii) the Oil and Gas Authority had not in any event been shown to have a duty to secure the decommissioning of fracking assets. The judgment may have consequences for the public debate concerning regulatory responsibility for decommissioning unused onshore fracking assets.
The full judgment can be found here.
Kate Gallafent QC and Tom Coates acted for the Oil and Gas Authority.