The government has defeated a legal challenge brought by environmentalists who argued that continued North Sea oil and gas production was unlawful.
Campaigners launched a High Court action last year against the business secretary and the Oil and Gas Authority on the ground that the drive to maximise production of oil and gas in the North Sea was both unlawful and irrational.
The activists said that maximising production was unlawful as it failed to take into account the billions in public money that is used to subsidise the industry.
Mrs Justice Cockerill said that the claimants court action had failed on both counts.
Following the ruling, the claimants, Mikaela Loach, Kairin van Sweeden and Jeremy Cox, celebrated a small victory. They said that the government had conceded that oil companies may make more money from public subsides than they pay in tax.
The trio, one of whom is a former oil refinery worker, added that they are now considering an appeal.
In a statement, the claimants from the Paid to Pollute campaign said: “Today the High Court ruled against us, but accepted that the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority can ignore the billions of pounds in public money that prop up oil and gas companies when deciding whether or not to approve oil and gas extraction.
“The Court also accepted that oil and gas companies may receive more pay-outs in public money than they pay in tax. While the Court did not think this is unlawful, we think this is completely unacceptable in a time of bumper profits for oil and gas companies and during a climate emergency.”
They added: “The court may not have agreed with the legal arguments, but the costs of subsidising oil and gas production are now a matter of the public record.”
More to follow…