Fracking and chemicals giant Ineos has threatened to sue the National Trust to gain access to the charity’s land for fracking. According to David Leask at Herald Scotland:
“Greenpeace, which campaigns against fracking, yesterday revealed documents showing Ineos Shale, a subsidiary of the Ineos group, has threatened the trust with compulsory access to the land under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966.
“Activists from Greenpeace have also obtained emails showing the British Geological Survey, the state watchdog, was complaining to Ineos for citing its name in correspondence with landowners.”
The Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966 allows companies to apply to the courts for access to land, and permission to alter land in order to access mineral resources. However, the company making the application would have to demonstrate that it is in the national interest. Clearly, given how contentious fracking is, it would be difficult for Ineos to establish that fracking beneath National Trust property is in the national interest. Indeed, the tightness of the 1966 Act and other legislation impacting fracking informed a 2014 government consultation exploring the need for a specific Act of Parliament to provide fracking companies with the right to drill more or less anywhere they pleased.
Were Ineos to pursue the case against National Trust – which could set a precedent for other landowners – it would most likely gamble on having deeper pockets than the charity, rather than on the validity of its case. On the other hand, Ineos investors – already badly burned by low oil and gas prices since 2014 – may resent forking out for expensive legal fees before a single Btu of economically viable fracked gas has been extracted in the UK.