Legal challenge against new Cumbrian coal mine begins

Friends of the Earth has begun action against the UK Government following the decision to grant planning permission for a major new fossil fuel facility in the north of England.

The environmental charity was one of two main opponents at the planning inquiry held in September 2021, and will file its claim later this month focusing on overall climate impact. South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) is the other opponent of the proposed site, and is also considering taking legal steps to block to the project. A letter to Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, has already been submitted requesting further information and outlining errors in law evident in initial move. 

The Cumbrian mine, which is set to open in Whitehaven, has already been at the centre of major controversy, not least when it was found that outcomes of the planning inquiry were held back from publication to avoid coinciding with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Egypt for the UN climate talks at COP27. A green light for the new mine was finally confirmed last month. 

‘By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully. Michael Gove has failed to account for the significant climate impacts of this mine, or how the much-needed move to green steelmaking will be impacted by its approval,’ said Friends of the Earth lawyer, Michael Toru. 

‘The steel industry is under no illusion that it must decarbonise if we’re to meet our climate goals, which calls into doubt the long-term viability of the mine and the jobs used to justify it. Just as many jobs could be created locally through a programme to guarantee every home in the area is properly insulated. This would bring a myriad of benefits the mine simply can’t offer, such as lower energy bills, warmer homes and fewer carbon emissions,’ he continued. ‘With the world facing a climate emergency, we shouldn’t have to take this challenge to court. Any sensible government should be choosing to leave coal in the ground.’

In December, a study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggested that the health benefits associated with switching to wind power could increase four fold if fossil fuel output is ‘turned down’ at the same time.

Image: Adriano Ruiz


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