Pressure group Greenpeace has launched a legal challenge against fracking to stop plans for shale gas extraction in places including Lancashire.
The legal case is based on fracking companies’ plans to drill horizontally under people’s homes; something Greenpeace says could be unlawful.
However, business leaders in Lancashire say the move could see the county miss out on ‘growth and jobs”.
Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Anna Jones said: “Under English law, if you own land, your rights extend to all the ground beneath it. That means if someone drills under your home without permission it is trespass.
“To avoid being liable for trespass, drillers would need landowners’ permission. And 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.”
The legal challenge is being backed by dairy farmer Andrew Pemberton, he said: “I’m supplying milk to 3,000 households, and if for any reason my water became contaminated, my business would be ruined and my livelihood destroyed, as well as the livelihoods of the 16 families who work for me.”
However, Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “This country pioneered subsurface infrastructure.
“All of our existing subsurface underground rail, water, gas, telecommunications and electric development has historically succeeded in legal coexistence with surface property rights.
“Newer technology such as geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage will also have to negotiate this.
“We are confident that new subsurface shale development that safely offers energy security, skilled jobs and community benefits will in due course be no different.”
Lee Petts, managing director at waste and environmental management specialists Remsol, added: “Whilst it’s only right that local people with genuine concerns have them heard, I think it’s disappointing to hear that Greenpeace are planning to try and frustrate shale gas exploration in Lancashire in this way.
“There are plenty of examples of underground activities and infrastructure being installed without incident, and I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this should be any different.”
John Kersley, Lancashire chairman of the Institute of Directors, added: “The recent announcement from Greenpeace, saying they intend to try and block shale gas development by taking advantage of historic laws on trespass, could mean that the people of Lancashire miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for growth and jobs.
“That would be a real shame.”