The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has asked the Supreme Court for permission to intervene in a court case regarding the development of oil wells in Surrey, UK. IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

The Supreme Court will consider whether Surrey County Council “acted lawfully” by not requiring the development’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) to assess the environmental impact of oil from the site being burned downstream by end users.

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of IEMA, said:

"We welcome the OEP's application to intervene in this important case, because the law in this area must be clarified.

"These sorts of developments which include the extraction of fossil fuels have significant impacts on the climate. IEMA's guidance takes this into account, but the law is unclear. This is an opportunity to gain clarity from the Supreme Court."

"IEMA's best practice guidance for assessing the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for new developments requires the consideration of indirect effects, such as resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

"More widely, this case highlights the need to strengthen the Impact Assessment regime, which IEMA believes is critical to responsible development."

The OEP was legally created in November 2021, under the Environment Act 2021, and its role is "to protect and improve the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account."

The body is responsible for scrutinising environmental improvement plans and targets, scrutinising environmental law, advising government on environmental law, and enforcing against failures to comply with environmental law.

Peter Ashford, general counsel at the OEP, said:

“Environmental impact assessment is so important for integrating the environment into planning decision-making.

“We are interested in this case because of the opportunity to clarify the law here to ensure proper decision-making that enhances environmental protection. We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity, and will develop principles for determining the proper approach to the assessment of indirect effects under the EIA legislation.”

The intervention that the OEP has applied for is related to the appeal of R (Finch) v Surrey County Council and concerns a judicial review regarding the grant of planning permission for new oil wells on a site in Surrey.


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