Greenpeace Starts Legal Challenge to Stop U.K. Shale Wells

Environmental group Greenpeace started a legal challenge to shale-gas exploration in the U.K., encouraging landowners to use trespass laws to block drilling.

Drilling horizontally under peoples land is illegal without the owner’s permission and property holders can block drilling by formally declaring their opposition, Greenpeace said.

“If someone drills under your home without permission it is a trespass,” John Sauven, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “This case is about people explicitly declaring they do not give that permission. This will make it extremely difficult for companies to move ahead with any horizontal drilling plans.”

Greenpeace is opposed to drilling techniques that started an oil and gas production boom in the U.S., claiming they risk polluting water supplies. Exploiting shale reserves relies on a combination of drilling horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing, the process of using a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals to force fuel out of rocks.

The U.K. said in June the Bowland basin, which stretches from the east to the northwest, may hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas. An extraction rate of 10 percent, typical in U.S. fields, will meet the country’s demand for almost 50 years. The government has encouraged explorers through lower tax rates as it tries to cut reliance on imports and reserves decline in the North Sea.

“This country pioneered subsurface infrastructure,” Francis Egan, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a shale explorer, said in a statement. “All of our existing subsurface underground rail, water, gas, telecommunications and electric development has historically succeeded in legal coexistence with surface property rights.”

IGas Energy Plc (IGAS), another shale driller, said it “informs all local landowners under whose land laterals will be drilled in accordance with current law.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nidaa Bakhsh in London at nbakhsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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