Courts rule on indirect Environmental Harm

Decision made 22 December 2020

The Courts have recently confirmed that, when granting planning permission for oil drilling, planners are not required to take into account the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that will inevitably be generated by end-users of the oil extracted.

If the Claimant (supported by FoE) had been successful then planners could in future have been required to take into account the future indirect environmental impacts of some types of developments. These might include the environmental effects of such projects, and the contribution to GHGs that would arise at every stage in the supply chain.

The Judge said that producers of crude oil might be required to take into account the impact of GHGs produced by the refining process, energy generation, and even by domestic vehicles and airlines. But he went on to rule that the council was required to consider nothing wider than the environmental effects of the actual development for which it was asked to grant planning permission.

The Judge ruled that the 'essential character' of the development was for the extraction and production of hydrocarbons. The Defendant company was not obliged to assess the environmental impact of future processing, distribution, sale, and consumption of end products, whether in the UK or elsewhere.