Environmental campaigners say the UK Government is misleading the public over its power to stop proposals to develop the Cambo oilfield.
Uplift and Friends of the Earth Scotland have written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng saying the UK Government “can and must” take responsibility for the decision on whether or not to develop the oilfield off the coast of Shetland.
Shell and Siccar Point Energy plan to start oil and gas production in the Cambo oilfield, which is estimated to contain over 800 million barrels of oil.
Should the proposal go ahead, the developers plan to extract 170 million barrels in the first phase of the project.
Those campaigning against the plans however say the emissions it would create would be equivalent to operating 18 coal-fired power stations for a whole year.
UK Government deflecting rejection calls
Those who have written to the business secretary say the UK Government is lawfully bound to take responsibility for the decision on whether or not to develop the oilfield.
Previously, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has said the regulator the Oil and Gas Authority is ultimately responsible for making a decision on Cambo.
— StopCambo (@StopCambo) September 1, 2021
However the campaigners say the UK Government is using this to deflect calls for the development to be rejected.
Last month First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the UK Government to rethink the Cambo development because of “the severity of the climate emergency”.
It also comes only a day after the cooperation deal between the SNP and the Green Party was agreed, with the Greens openly opposing the Cambo oilfield plans.
‘They are wrong’, says campaign group
Tessa Khan, lawyer and director of Uplift, said: “The government has repeatedly tried to shirk responsibility for this decision, claiming the process is controlled by the regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority, and that it ‘cannot intervene’, but they are wrong.
“They can and must use the power they have to stop this new and damaging fossil fuel development.”
She says the Energy Act 2016 allows the secretary of state to give directions to the Oil and Gas Authority if it is in the public interest, and says the secretary must give their agreement before the regulatory can approve a project, and be satisfied there will be no significant effect on the environment.
Ms Khan added: “For a government that enthusiastically took back control from EU regulators, to be suddenly cowed by a UK regulator doesn’t make sense.
“Kwasi Kwarteng is bound by law to be involved in the decision to approve or reject the Cambo oilfield.
“To claim otherwise is unlawful.”
Cambo would cause ‘devastating pollution’
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “The climate can’t afford new oil and gas projects like the Cambo field which would be spewing devastating climate pollution for decades.
“The recent code red climate warning makes it absolutely clear that we must urgently transition away from fossil fuels if we are to limit further climate breakdown.
We must urgently transition away from fossil fuels if we are to limit further climate breakdown.
“The government does have the power to stop Cambo and it must use that power instead of trying to wash its hands of this dirty development.”
A spokeswoman for BEIS said: “As we have previously stated, the Cambo oilfield was originally licensed in 2001 and consent for development of the field is a matter for our expert regulators, the Oil and Gas Authority, and the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning, following their standard regulatory processes.”
The Oil and Gas Authority declined to comment on the matter.