About The SaFe Alliance

Urgent: We are gathering funds for a hugely important Judicial Review. Please help us if you can.  Join our maillist (below) and we will get in touch with you.

On 13 August 2015, the Government issued a further pro-fracking policy that will make it virtually impossible for local communities to stop fracking (including underground coal gasification) in their areas.  More information and FAQ can be found below. Please call one from the team (info below) or write us, safeallianceuk@gmail.com, if you have any questions. You can also follow us on Facebook.

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required





 

The SaFE Alliance has been formed by concerned individuals who recognise the need to use legal routes to halt the ‘dash for gas’ in the UK.

The Alliance’s key messages are:

  • Safety – ‘Our objective is safety’
  • Rationality – ‘The SaFE Alliance is a rational response to the available evidence’
  • Clarity and Transparency – ‘We have a right to clarity and transparency’

SaFE Alliance’s position on fracking, safety and regulation is that:

a) there is currently no evidence to suggest that fracking and other forms of unconventional gas exploration are or can be safe in human or environmental terms;

b) there is no evidence to suggest that all elements of the oil and gas industry can be expected to fully follow any regulation system that might be put in place or that safety can be assured through regulation.

The Alliance is focused on unconventional gas and oil exploitation (also referred to as shale gas extraction), including the use of high volume, high pressure hydraulic fracturing – the technology that is widely referred to as fracking – as well as coal bed methane extraction.

The Alliance has come about because there is substantial evidence that indicates that the ‘dash for gas’ (in the UK and globally) is unsafe and irresponsible, both for this generation and future generations.

The SaFE Alliance was formed in December 2013 and aims to provide access to information and resources, including helping to connect different local groups, and helping access legal advice. We are also creating a ‘fighting fund’ to fund proactive legal work to help prepare local groups in advance and to help fund specific legal actions – because we believe concerned individuals, local groups, businesses and politicians need support in challenging the ‘dash for gas’.


SaFE Alliance Mission

The mission of the SaFE Alliance is to:

  1. protect and assure the health of citizens and the environment, in the present and the future
  2. secure their safety in relation to unconventional gas and oil exploration and exploitation and
  3. achieve full clarity and transparency of interests in government and industry.

Safe Alliance on Facebook

www.facebook.com/Safe-Alliance-UK-1487098358250790/

The team

Emily Shirley is a keen environmentalist and a non-practising barrister. She has particular concerns regarding fracking, climate climate change and the erosion of national and local democracy. She is a firm believer in using the law, as part of the process, to achieve change. For example, she along with the NGO Fish Legal took succeeded in getting the law of information rights changed to include water companies.
Email: climaterecovery1@gmail.com
Phone: 07753779074

Dr Geoff Meaden is a retired Geography lecturer and a long standing Green Party member. He was an expert witness on behalf of Greenpeace at the groundbreaking climate change cases Kingsnorth, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Aberdeen and Manchester Airport. He has long helped progress environmental causes locally and nationally.

Email: geoff.meaden@googlemail.com
Phone: 01227 752275

Steve Charter has worked in the sustainability field since 1993, at mainstream and grassroots levels, particularly in relation to sustainable construction training and innovative sustainability projects, and has a strong interest in the natural health movement. He is a permaculture tutor and designer, holding a Diploma in Applied permaculture Design and an MA in Environmental Planning.
Email: steve@sc2.org.uk

Gill Rawling has no legal, environmental or activist background, she is a nutritional therapist, and deeply concerned about the risks posed by fracking to our water, food and health. She became interested in the legal approach through sheer disbelief that the government could legally foist this industry upon communities, as well as the belief that more than one strategy will be necessary to stop fracking.
Email: gillrawling@hotmail.com

Legal advisor:
Jamie Potter from Bindmans LLP have previously produced, at no cost, a briefing note for the Safe Alliance on legal issues relevant to the anti-fracking campaign (attached). Bindmans LLP also have a long history of representing anti-fracking and other environmental campaigners charged with legal offences and/or seeking to challenge Government policy – for example, Bindmans LLP has represented the Badger Trust in respect of numerous challenges opposing the badger culls.

Bindmans LLP are aware of the legal and factual issues relevant to this case and have provided initial advice as well as drafting the pre-action letter sent to the relevant Secretaries of State. They, alongside Counsel, will continue to provide legal advice, particularly in light of any response received to the pre-action letter (which is yet to be received). As we are sure you will appreciate, we are not able to share the detail of the legal advice more widely so that we can maintain confidentiality and legal privilege in any such advice.
Jamie Potter | Partner | Bindmans LLP
Public Law
T: +44(0)20 7833 4433 | D: +44(0)20 7014 2019
j.potter@bindmans.com | www.bindmans.com
236 Gray’s Inn Road | London | WC1X 8HB | DX 37904 King’s Cross

Urgent: Support our crowdfunding 

FAQ


Why is this initiative important and needs to be funded alongside with the crowdfunding of anti-fracking communitie’s legal challenges of planning applications?
The “fast tracking of fracking” policy (which also includes presumptions in favour of the need for, and safety of, fracking) which Safe Alliance UK is seeking to challenge will affect all future and current planning policies. The policy published on 13/08/2015 means that the Government can punish local authorities for not deciding fracking applications quickly enough, and can call in or recover any fracking application and make the decisions itself. Even when anti-fracking communities are successful challenging a fracking project, the policy makes it easier for the Government to overrule that decision. If we do not challenge and force the Goverment to remove this policy it will be very difficult for communities successfully to oppose fracking applications in the future, because the policy sets presumptions in favour of need and safety, and because where applications are not approved, the Government can overrule the decision.

We certainly do not intend to suggest that this project is more important than other local projects, which we fully support; however, we do consider it essential that fracking policy is challenged at a national as well as local level given that central Government is one of the key drivers of pro-fracking policy. If we do not challenge central policy and decisions on fracking, it will only make it more difficult to challenge local policy and decisions on fracking.

What are we doing currently? (18/09/2015)
We are awaiting the response to our pre-action protocol letter that we sent to the Government on 1st September 2015, challenging the legality of the Government’s Fast-track fracking policy published on the 13th August 2015. We expect to receive the response to this letter from the Government on 22nd September. This response will be considered with Bindmans LLP and Counsel to discuss the way forward. It will be only then that we can determine the precise legal grounds to pursue. The next step would be preparing the application for permission for judicial review. We are unable to share specific legal advice as to do would undermine confidentiality and legal privilege, which would compromise our legal case.

We have never heard of SAFE?  What has SAFE achieved so far?

  • February 2014 (survey results):  survey to AF groups to establish the need for legal action to stop fracking and the creation of an alliance to act on these legal issues (February 2014) – met with overwhelming support. (See Resources)
  • Legal briefing circulated to AF groups “Concerned about fracking and the law?” legal briefing by Leigh Day (January 2014).
  • Circulated to AF groups legal briefing by Bindmans (October 2014) Guide to human rights and fracking. (See Resources)
  • Submission to Government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) (December 2014). (See Resources)
  • August 2015: launch of initiative to challenge government policy to fast-track fracking.

What do we consider safe regulations for fracking?
Our view is that there would be no safe regulations for fracking. However, the Government is in the process of drafting ‘safe’ regulations. This is another possible area of challenge. SaFE believes that fracking cannot be made safe by regulation.

Are we pushing for safer regulation or an all out ban on fracking?
We are seeking an outright ban on fracking because it is unsafe through using available legal routes to challenge the root causes of the Government’s Dash for Gas approach. SaFE is pushing for legal action to stop fracking from taking place, and supports other forms of action to stop fracking and an all out ban.

What is our intent to use the money we collect?
We are raising money to employ a legal team to undertake detailed legal work within the short window that is allowed for a judicial review of the government’s new policy to accelerate the push for fracking, which takes away key legal rights of local communities to prevent applications for fracking in their locality. The purpose of the campaign is two-fold a) to stop the new policy from proceeding; and b) to raise awareness amongst the wider public of the dangers of fracking and the government’s push to take away the democratic rights of communities to prevent fracking. Part of the previous and current government’s tactics in their push for fracking has been to significantly reduce the time windows that are allowed for making legal appeals against new policy annoucements (i.e. from x weeks to y weeks) – our intent is to act quickly to counter this tactic, and to raise people’s understanding of how the government is shaping law to aid their and the facking industry’s objectives, and to hinder and limit the public’s legal rights to act against these objectives. As also explained on the Crowd Justice website, we intend to use the collected funds as protection against adverse costs.

Which pieces of legislation, secondary legislation and/or regulations and processes are we hoping to judicially review?
As explained on the Crowd Justice website, the intention is to raise legal concerns regarding, and challenge by way of judicial review, the Shale oil and gas planning policy statement published by DECC and DCLG on 13 August 2015. We recognise that there are extensive activities being undertaken, particularly at a local level, to oppose fracking, and we wholly support those activities.  However, we also consider that it is important that legal action is taken at a national government level, particularly when central Government is trying to override local democratic processes, dilute legal opportunities to challenge local decisions and force local authorities to approve fracking planning applications through this policy. Central Government’s ideological support for fracking must be challenged given the clear climate change and safety concerns to which it gives rise.

If it is not a judicial review that we wish to proceed with, what other legal route are we considering?
As explained on the Crowd Justice website, any legal challenge would be by way of judicial review. Before commencing such proceedings it is necessary to engage in pre-action correspondence. Given the very short time limits for bringing judicial review, pre-action correspondence was sent at the same time as the crowd funding campaign was launched. Proceedings will need to be brought very soon after the crowdfunding period has ended. It is of course possible that the policy may be withdrawn as a result of the pre-action correspondence, in which case no legal proceedings would be necessary.

Why have we chosen the claimant we have chosen? Does this claimant have legal advice that they would be the best person to gain ‘legal standing’?
We consider that the SaFE Alliance and/or its individual members clearly have standing to bring such public interest proceedings. This is not, however, intended to exclude others that may wish also to be claimants. We would welcome discussions with any individuals or organisations that are interested in supporting the challenge.

What claim do we intend to make against the DECC?
The claim would be brought by way of judicial review on the basis that the policy statement was unlawful as a matter of public law. There is of course a lot more which we cannot share, as our legal initiative requires that we can keep our specific legal strategies confidential.

Why has the DECC been chosen as the government department that we wish to make a claim against?
The policy was published by DECC and DCLG, so any claim would have to be against the Secretaries of State for those departments as they are responsible for making the policy.

If a Judicial Review finds the government didn’t follow the ‘correct’ procedure, that particular ‘process’ MIGHT become invalid through the Judge’s ruling?
We recognise that there are inevitable risks inherent in any litigation process. There can, of course, be no guarantees.  However, if a Court finds that the Government have acted unlawfully, then it would be usual for the policy to be quashed, although that is in the Court’s discretion.

Is there a guarantee that the ‘process’ will not be allowed to happen?
If the ‘process’ is overturned / not allowed to happen, what prevents the government from re-introducing that process, this time following the ‘correct’ procedure and / or within a different piece of Primary Legislation?”
If we are successful, then, depending on the grounds on which we succeed, any positive judgment could make it very difficult or even impossible for the policy to be re-made. There are, however, no guarantees – there is always a risk in judicial review challenges that a policy could be made again in a lawful manner (and/or through primary legislation). Indeed, the risk that policies and decisions that are successfully challenged are simply remade, or that cases are lost, is endemic to any public law legal challenge and indeed much campaigning. We will, of course, be seeking the strongest judgment possible in the circumstances to seek to prevent the policy from being made again. We also wish to make clear to central Government that unlawful policies and the continual driving of the fracking agenda will not go unchallenged.

What is our relationship with Bindmans LLP?
Bindmans LLP have previously produced, at no cost, a briefing note for the Safe Alliance on legal issues relevant to the anti-fracking campaign (attached). Bindmans LLP also have a long history of representing anti-fracking and other environmental campaigners charged with legal offences and/or seeking to challenge Government policy – for example, Bindmans LLP has represented the Badger Trust in respect of numerous challenges opposing the badger culls. SaFE has also engaged with legal practices, such as Leigh Day, who have also produced guidance for fracking groups at no cost. Their is no ‘special relationship’ between SaFE and Bindmans or any other legal practice.

How much do Bindmans LLP know of this case and what advice has been given to date?
Bindmans LLP are aware of the legal and factual issues relevant to this case and have provided initial advice as well as drafting the pre-action letter sent to the relevant Secretaries of State. They, alongside Counsel, will continue to provide legal advice, particularly in light of any response received to the pre-action letter (which is yet to be received). As we are sure you will appreciate, we are not able to share the detail of the legal advice more widely so that we can maintain confidentiality and legal privilege in any such advice.

What is the origin of SAFE ? 
Vanessa Vine (who’s been a friend for about 12 yrs) put Steve Charter in touch with Gill Rawling about 2 yrs ago (both live in Sussex) as we’d both expressed interest in looking at legal tools to stop fracking. Rosie Rechter of EKAF (East Kent Against Fracking) put Gill and Steve in touch with Emily Shirley (a non-practising barrister, with successes using legal challenges for environmental protection) and Dr Geoff Meaden (both in E Kent). The group met with Leigh Day solicitors and David Wolf QC in 2013 to seek a collaborative approach to exploring legal challenges to fracking with other organisations such as Greenpeace, FoE, and others involved. However, as there was little interest in a collaborative approach at that time the group continued to be in touch with Leigh Day for a while, and SaFE surveyed local anti-fracking groups at the start of 2014 (and got 60 responses by 11 Feb 2014) and the majority thought that approaches were needed that were accessible to the ‘middle ground’ as well as activists.
SaFE as an entity, do not believe any kind of regulation of UCG development (fracking or coal seam gasification) can make the method safe.
However, the initial info aimed to respond to the need to access the ‘middle ground’, and probably partly reflected a perception that we needed something that even a few Tory councillors might read, as the group resided in a very blue territory. Much has moved on since then, with many many more groups across the country, so it has now become appropriate to rewrite some of the strategies and we will publish news of our updates on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Safe-Alliance-UK-1487098358250790/

Is Mike Hill involved with SAFE?
Mike Hill is not involved with Safe Alliance. Steve and Gill contacted him two years ago for his expertise in exposing the lack of regulation, to expose the fundamental flaws in the idea that a regulated industry could be safe. We didn’t have the funds to pay him and we haven’t been in touch with him since. Mike Hill is an expert in this field and many anti-frackers have used his work to good effect. Safe Alliance is anti-fracking and if it was valuable to do so would consider using his work to expose the government, dangers of fracking, fundamental flaws in proposed regulation etc, to get this industry shut down.

Urgent: Support our crowdfunding

 

 

The Safety in Fossilfuel Exploitation Alliance