Shale Gas Development : A benchmark review of the regulatory Framework

This Interdisciplinary Research Team Flexible Fund project is part of the Natural Environment Research Council-funded UK Shale Gas Landscape Consortium and seeks to provide a benchmark review of the legal and regulatory framework governing shale gas development in the UK.

At present the regulatory governance of shale gas development is drawn from a range of regulatory provisions. To provide a benchmark overview of the framework, the project will draw on primary and secondary legislation, policy documents/statements, and other relevant standards (e.g. UKOOG guidelines) to provide an overview of relevant controls. To provide a review of existing and potential changes to the regulatory framework post 2010, relevant local/national planning and regulatory policy documents, Hansard, government consultations, parliamentary committee reports, and primary/secondary legislation will be analysed. The political standing/position on shale gas of public officials and societal actors that steer development at all levels, will be mapped using information in the public domain (e.g. political make up of local councils, national and local government statements/publications, planning decisions, publications from campaign groups and industry). This identification of the political standing/position on shale gas, at all levels of the regulatory system, is fundamental in benchmarking how various interests have responded to the industry, and which responses are reflected in regulatory and policy decisions/changes (both locally and nationally).

In considering regulatory changes, a review of the potential impact of Brexit is necessary given that much of the regulatory framework stems from EU directives. This Brexit related review will draw on the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, and associated parliamentary debates/commission proceedings, to consider how the UK’s proposed approach to environmental regulation and enforcement could impact on shale gas development.

To understand the boundaries and interpretation of the existing framework in the context of shale gas, and the scope for potential future legal challenges, the research will review planning applications/appeals, court transcripts/judgements and any associated publications relating to challenges e.g statements from NGOs/industry.

The project will provide a resource enabling research users to review and engage with the regulatory framework as a whole, rather than disparate, entity. The reflection on how political standing/positions on shale gas have shaped changes will offer important insight in to the stability of the regulatory framework. The review of legal challenges will enable research users to better understand the interpretation/boundaries of the existing framework, and the implications this will have for them in relation to future developments.