Fracking and the Legal Challenges: What the UK Can Learn From US Precedents and Practices

Brought to you by our friends at Vannin Capital PCC Limited

As energy becomes more expensive, alternative energy sources like shale gas have become important political topics in the UK. The UK’s shale gas industry is growing, but it remains many years behind the large fracking industry in North America.

As Britain’s political, industrial and environmental leaders discuss the pros and cons of fracking, we can learn a lot from the procedures, precedents and practiced used in the United States.

Fracking has significantly benefits and major potential downsides. Proponents claim its low cost makes it an affordable source of energy that will reduce the cost of living for millions of people.

They also claim that it has significant economic value. A shale gas industry will lead to thousands of new jobs in the UK, reducing unemployment and raising economic prosperity across the country.

The benefits of fracking are, however, balanced by its potential downsides. Fracking could have a significant impact on the environment, with water contamination one of the most worrying potential consequences.

Opponents of shale gas fracking also claim that the heavy industry involved could have an impact on the quality of life of millions of people that live in rural areas in which fracking could occur.

Interestingly, many of the questions raised in the UK regarding fracking have been answered already in the United States. The US shale gas industry has also run into many of the same obstacles – both environmental and political – as its counterpart in the United Kingdom.

Opposition to shale gas in the United States

In the United States, many members of the public and interest groups have opposed fracking. Lawsuits against shale gas companies have been filed in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and several other states.

Legal battles have been fought between environmental groups and large industrial companies over a variety of issues. Much like in the UK, most opponents of fracking are concerned about its environmental effects on local water sources.

In the United States, conflicts between county, state and federal laws have stopped many anti-fracking cases from reaching the Court of Appeal. The wealth of facts and arguments provided in American fracking cases will be a valuable asset for fracking supporters and opponents as it becomes a more important legal issue in the UK.

The future of fracking in the United Kingdom

Over the last three years, plans for fracking developments in the UK have been set back by a growing anti-fracking community. Cuadrilla Resources, which planned to develop a fracking site in Balcombe, was forced to abandon its plans after protests from environmental activists and residents concerned about pollution.

Due to the chasm between the interests of energy companies and the goals of anti-fracking campaigners, a variety of alternatives to on-shore fracking have appeared in the last year. Recently, Cuadrilla was licensed to start fracking from an off-shore location near Lancashire.

Off-shore fracking allows energy companies and the general public to make use of the numerous benefits of fracking – namely cheaper energy and economic health – without so many downsides. While water contamination remains an issue, other issues such as noise pollution are largely averted.

The political importance of shale gas

With energy prices continuing to increase and the 2015 general election looming on the horizon, shale gas is expected to be one of the biggest political issues of the 2015 election. The potential economic benefits of fracking mean that it will likely be a key issue for all major parties.

As the debate regarding fracking continues to grow, UK litigators can become more familiar with the legal arguments for and against fracking by studying the numerous cases launched in the United States. Despite the differences in US and UK law, many similarities can be observed in the US and UK cases opposing shale gas fracking.

This article was provided on behalf of Vannin Capital, one of the UK’s leading specialist litigation funding providers.

May 30, 2014 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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