EIA related judicial review forces BEIS to review offshore licensing rules

Secretary of state for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Andrea Leadsom, has agreed to carry out a detailed review of offshore drilling licensing, after a conservationist won a judicial review against a government decision to allow oil drilling in Poole Bay.

Last week, Leadsom agreed to review the regime and to amend the related 1999 regulations. She also committed to holding a public consultation on how the changes will look.

Neil Garrick-Maidment, founder of the Seahorse Trust, argued that a drilling application by Corallian Energy Limited had not been subject to a transparent, environmental impact assessment process.

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The Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Environmental Impact Assessment and Other Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/582)

In force/
Current
Legislation
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales
Published
31 Oct 2017

Commentary

26/04/2017 An explanatory memorandum was published alongside these Regulations., 23/10/2017 Correction slip published.

Compliance Dates

16/05/2017 Comes into force

Characteristics

Subject

Land and development

Source

OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

Affected Sectors

Cross-sector Oil Coke Refined Petroleum Products And Nuclear Fuel Machinery And Equipment Not Elsewhere Classified (Engineering) Electricity Gas
ECM

The Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Environmental Impact Assessment and Other Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/582)

Document Status: In force/Current

Scope: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales

Commentary:

26/04/2017 An explanatory memorandum was published alongside these Regulations., 23/10/2017 Correction slip published.

Compliance:

16/05/2017 Comes into force

He was granted permission to bring judicial proceedings in July, after seeking a declaration from the courts that the current regulations are not fit for purpose.

The judicial review challenge came after the government agreed to the application by Corallian Energy Limited to drill for oil in Poole Bay, Dorset, which was found to be in breach of the European Union’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, according to the Seahorse Trust.

The secretary of state has now agreed that the Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipelines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 are not fit for purpose and need to be amended.

Garrick-Maidment said he wanted to ensure that any future drilling in UK waters will be subject to proper consultation and scrutiny “so that sensitive species, such as seahorses, are properly protected”.

Susan Ring, partner at Harrison Grant Solicitors, which acted on behalf of Garrick-Maidment, said it became clear in the course of the proceedings that environmental impact assessment of offshore oil projects “is still in the dark ages in contrast to the planning system generally”.

“The 1999 Regulations need urgent amendment to bring them into the 21st century.This may be because the oil drilling projects take place offshore so they are not generally visible to the public. In any event, the government for a very long time has got away with failing to consult the public properly about these major projects and that now has to stop,” she added.

A BEIS spokesperson said the department had agreed that the legislation “isn’t quite right and in particular doesn’t provide a clear right to challenge decisions and so BEIS did not push the matter to a court hearing”.

BEIS noted that it had agreed to undertake this review in order to address the concerns raised – and it was not ordered by the High Court to do so.

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