Legal challenge likely on new coal plan

Barry White

The government’s controversial decision to grant planning permission for a new deep coal mine in Cumbria is likely to face a legal challenge by climate campaigners. This could be based on the UK’s national and international legally binding commitments. The decision by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, follows a Planning Inquiry in September 2021. The new coalmine would be the first for more than 30 years.

Friends of the Earth was one of the two main parties opposing the application for planning permission at the Planning Inquiry along with local campaign group SLACC (South Lakes Action on Climate Change).

Friends of the Earth’s lawyers will now study the detail of the decision and will consider legal options.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“This is an appalling decision. Approving this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that flies in the face of all the evidence. The mine isn’t needed, will add to global climate emissions, and won’t replace Russian coal.

“Scientists are clear that new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with meeting global climate goals to limit warming to 1.5C.

“The market for this coal is rapidly disappearing as UK and European steelmakers recognise that green steel is the future, and this mine risks becoming an expensive stranded asset.

“West Cumbria deserves far better than this. Investing in cheap renewables and energy efficiency would put the region at the forefront of growing a clean, affordable and energy secure future – creating thousands of green jobs and opportunities locally.

“Last month’s decision to postpone an announcement on the mine now looks little more than a cynical ploy to try and avoid the embarrassment of approving it while the Prime Minister was trying to portray himself as a climate leader at the UN climate summit.

“Coal must be consigned to history books, along with this government’s harmful and outdated addiction to fossil fuels.”

Dr Ruth Balogh, co-ordinator of West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, said:

“This short-sighted decision is bad news for the climate and the region’s long-term well-being. West Cumbria needs sustainable green jobs for the future – not a dirty coal mine. This will contribute to the planet-warming emissions that are causing extreme weather events all over the world, such as the intense flooding which we now experience more frequently across Cumbria.”

Commenting on the government’s decision to approve a new coal mine Tom Fyans, interim CEO at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “This absurdly retrograde decision will shackle us to the past at the precise moment the steel industry is transitioning to an environmentally sustainable future”.

The coalmine is owned by West Cumbria Mining Ltd based in West Sussex and ultimately owned by EMR Capital based in the Cayman Islands (Guardian 9 December 2022).

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