At 2pm this afternoon Estelle Dehon, led by Marc Willers QC, will be in the High Court before Mr Justice Supperstone asking for an interim injunction preventing Cuadrilla from fracking to be extended. The injunction was granted on 5 October by Mrs Justice Farbey and prevents Cuadrilla from carrying out any hydraulic fracturing operations at the Preston New Road site (including oil/gas wells designated PNR-1z or PNR 2) until the hearing today.
Estelle is representing local resident Bob Dennett, who lives around 5km from the PNR site. His claim highlights inadequacies in the emergency and health and safety planning for the fracking operations on the site. The nearest residents to the site are 360m to the south-west and 380 m to the east. The nearest schools are 1.7km and 2.5 km from the site.
Lancashire County Council, as a Category 1 emergency responder, has various statutory duties to carry out a risk assessment, put in place plans to deal with any emergencies and communicate those risks and that plan to the local community.
An "emergency" is defined as an event or situation "which threatens serious damage to human welfare or to the environment in a place in the United Kingdom". The HSE identifies the main hazards from fracking as "uncontrolled release of hydrocarbon gas due to a failure of the well structure which may then reach a source of ignition leading to a fire or explosion", and "the possibility of fracking fluids or produced water being released to the surrounding rock strata or at surface".
Today, Mr Dennett will ask the court to extend the interim injunction until the High Court has had an opportunity to consider fully whether there is an arguable case that Lancashire County Council has failed to take into account material considerations, or taken into account immaterial considerations, in its risk assessment; whether it failed to apply the Precautionary Principle and whether it failed in its duties to communicate with the local community about the risk and the emergency plans to deal with them, so that local residents, schools and care homes are equipped to act should the need arise.