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Environmental group Friends of the Earth has presented new evidence to the West Cumbria coal mine inquiry, claiming that a recent Court of Appeal ruling for a different project could have an impact on the plans.

In a ruling on a planning application for oil extraction at Horse Hill in Surrey, the Court of Appeal said that planning authorities have the power to consider the “end use” emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in the environmental impact assessment.

This overturned a previous High Court ruling which said these emissions could not lawfully be taken into account.

However West Cumbria Mining made arguments in its inquiry based on the previous ruling that end-use emissions would not need to be assessed.

As such, Friends of the Earth senior lawyer Niall Toru said that one of West Cumbria Mining’s “key legal arguments” has been “entirely undermined” by the Court of Appeal judgement.

“At last year’s public inquiry West Cumbria Mining argued that end use emissions – caused when the extracted coal is eventually used – cannot be classed as an ‘effect’ of the coal mine,” he said.

“But last month’s Court of Appeal ruling, on a separate planning application, says these downstream emissions can be considered as an effect of the development.

“We have now written to the planning inspector in light of this important ruling. Coal, gas and oil companies must be to take responsibility for all their end-use emissions – and the huge part they play in fuelling the climate crisis.”

The proposed development is for a large underground metallurgical, or “coking coal”, coal mine. However its progress has been hindered by campaigns from environmental activists who fear that the facility could hinder the UK’s net zero goals and discredit its position as COP26 host, with the rescheduled event to take place in Glasgow in November.

Plans for the £165M mine were originally approved by Cumbria County Council in October 2020.

Since then, former communities secretary Robert Jenrick called in the decision and asked the Planning Inspectorate to carry out a formal evaluation of the scheme.

In February last year, Cumbria County Council said it would reconsider its decision to give the project the go-ahead in order to take into account “new information” in the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, and in May the council announced that it will remain “neutral with regard to the mine”.

Before the start of the inquiry, WCM chief executive Mark Kirkbride said: “We have considered the climate impacts of the project in great detail and implemented significant and world leading techniques to demonstrate that the resources industry can also achieve net carbon zero operations.

“I believe this will become a core part of the social licence to operate resource projects and we fully comply with the Climate Change Committee carbon budgets and proposed net zero test.”

Following the inquiry a report will be submitted to the secretary of state to inform a final decision on whether the scheme can go ahead.