Energy firm Cuadrilla is to begin fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire on Saturday after an environmental campaigner failed in a High Court bid to block operations.
At a hearing in London on Friday, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed Bob Dennett’s application for an injunction preventing the company from fracking the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well pending his proposed legal challenge.
Mr Dennett claimed that Lancashire County Council’s emergency response planning and procedures at the site are inadequate, but the judge ruled that there was not a “serious issue” to be tried which would justify an interim order.
In a statement after the ruling, Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “We are delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned. We are now commencing the final operational phase to evaluate the commercial potential for a new source of indigenous natural gas in Lancashire.
“If commercially recoverable, this will displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK.”
The judge had been told by Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, that her client “had been intending to start fracking” on Friday, but had “put that off to Saturday” in light of the late hearing.
She added that “every day, it costs Cuadrilla £94,000 to keep all that kit and equipment on site”.
Dismissing Mr Dennett’s application for an interim injunction, Mr Justice Supperstone said: “I do not consider that any of the grounds of challenge raise a serious issue to be tried.”
The judge said the site’s safety had been assessed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and there was “no evidence” to support Mr Dennett’s argument that it should have been categorised as posing more than a “medium risk”.
He added: “The claimant first has to establish that there is a serious issue to be tried.
“I am satisfied that the claimant falls at the first hurdle.”
The judge also refused permission for a judicial review of Lancashire County Council’s emergency planning procedures regarding the site.
He said: “I am entirely satisfied that the claim as formulated is unarguable.”