UK faces court hearing over offshore oil

Greenpeace wins right to challenge licences alleging failure to comply with EU habitats law

Greenpeace has won a judicial review in the English High Court of UK government licences for oil exploration in the north-east Atlantic, the group's UK office announced today. According to Greenpeace, a judge has ruled that the group has raised "substantive issues that need to be addressed in court" through its claim that the government has not ensured sufficient protection for marine wildlife in granting licences for oil exploration on the "Atlantic frontier". The government is therefore in breach of the EU's 1992 directive on habitats, Greenpeace alleges. This is the second time that Greenpeace has attempted to block oil exploration in the Atlantic frontier by claiming breaches of the habitats directive. A previous court action brought in 1997 was dismissed at an initial hearing when a judge ruled it should have been brought to court before oil companies had committed money to exploration. Greenpeace launched its latest court case within a week of the government's announcement in March that it intended to hold a new round of bidding for concessions in the area to boost hydrocarbons exploration (ENDS Daily 8 April). The group said it expected the case to be heard in late July or September.

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