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Oceans group takes UK government to court over oil and gas licences | Oil and gas companies

Marine conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the UK government, claiming that the Conservative government’s decision to issue North Sea oil and gas licenses without considering the environmental impact was unlawful.

Oceana UKThe Arctic Oceans and Marine Authority, part of the International Nature Conservancy, said that in issuing the 82 licences, Energy and Security Minister Claire Coutinho and the North Sea Transition Authority had ignored the advice of independent government experts on the potential impacts on marine protected areas (MPAs).

The licences, to be issued between October 2023 and May 2024, cover 226 marine areas or “blocks”, a third of which overlap with marine protected areas. Oceana argues that assessments of the blocks provided by the agency on behalf of the government do not reflect advice from independent government experts and breach the law.

The company said the subsequent decision to grant the licence on May 3 was also unlawful for the same reasons.

Many of the 82 North Sea licences issued overlap with marine protected areas. Photo: Igor Alexeyev/Alamy

According to a research website, there have been more than 2,000 oil spills in the North Sea since 2011, 215 of which occurred in marine protected areas. ferretMarine life is at risk from routine spills, exposure to toxic chemicals, and extreme noise pollution from seismic blasting associated with oil and gas activities.

“This is not a case of misunderstanding or lack of information,” said Hugo Tagholm, executive director of Oceana UK. “This is a deliberate choice to unlawfully ignore expert advice and put our oceans, our climate and our future at risk.”

last year, Greenpeace loses lawsuit After the court ruled in the government’s favour, it argued that UK oil and gas licences do not need to assess “downstream” greenhouse gases produced by oil and gas consumption.

Rowan Smith, a lawyer at Leigh Day, representing Oceana, said the charity’s argument was that it was “inconceivable that the government would ignore expert advice which condemns proposed oil and gas developments in the North Sea for harming protected marine habitats”.

He added: “Oceana hopes that the Secretary of State will decide not to defend this legal claim, but our client remains prepared to pursue it if necessary.”

A spokesman for the North Sea Transition Authority said: “We do not comment on potential litigation.”

The Department of Energy Security and Net Zero have been contacted for comment.