Court Rejects Climate Challenge to Oil Field Near London Airport

An activist’s effort to block oil drilling near London’s Gatwick Airport on the grounds that it would worsen climate change was rejected.

A High Court judge dismissed a legal challenge from Sarah Finch, supported by the Weald Action Group, to the development of the Horse Hill field, its main investor U.K. Oil & Gas Plc said on Tuesday.

While the judgment was a victory for the industry, climate-based suits against oil and gas producers are proliferating across Western Europe. Norway’s Supreme Court is due to give a ruling later on Tuesday on a challenge to Arctic drilling. Royal Dutch Shell Plc has been taken to court in the Netherlands in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint.

Finch was attempting to overturn Surrey County Council‘s approval of the Horse Hill development, arguing that it failed to consider the impact of the indirect greenhouse gas emissions from the oil that would be produced from the field. The court concluded that the council followed the proper process, according to the statement from U.K. Oil & Gas.

Court Rejects Climate Challenge to Oil Field Near London Airport

Shares of the company rose 12% to 0.14 pence as of 8:26 a.m. in London.

The legal challenge highlighted the tensions between the U.K.’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and its status as a significant producer of oil and gas.

The Horse Hill discovery has been controversial since it was announced in 2015. Most of the country’s oil and gas resources are far offshore in the North Sea, but this particular field lies in densely populated southeast England.

U.K. Oil & Gas argues that pumping oil and gas responsibly in the country would be less carbon-intensive that importing it from elsewhere.

“This is a victory for law and common sense,” Stephen Sanderson, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Production will thus continue at Horse Hill to ensure that each highly regulated barrel we produce is one less higher carbon footprint and less regulated barrel imported.”

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