An oil firm has secured a High Court injunction aimed at stopping environmental protesters from targeting its fuel processing sites.
Valero Energy, which operates Pembroke refinery in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and six fuel terminals across the UK, was granted the injunction against a number of environmental groups and “persons unknown” earlier this week.
The firm’s Kingsbury terminal, near Tamworth, Staffordshire, has been the site of a number of recent protests and Warwickshire Police said there had been 34 arrests over the weekend at the terminal, where protesters have tunnelled under a major access route.
But the judge refused to widen the injunction to include blocking, endangering, slowing down, preventing, or obstructing the free passage of traffic on the access roads, and refusing to leave the roads when asked by police.
The weekend’s protests follow a wave of similar demonstrations across the country by Just Stop Oil, a group of climate change activists, which have seen hundreds of protesters arrested amid major disruption. Valero also owns and operates sites in Manchester, Cardiff, Plymouth and Avonmouth.
The activists are continuing to block oil infrastructure around the country. A tweet posted yesterday stated: “We are in civil resistance. This morning we occupied a tanker on the roads near Purfleet terminal to stop the flow of oil.”
Following a hearing, Mr Justice Bennathan made the injunction in terms which ban anyone from damaging any part of the land at each of the firm’s sites, from “affixing themselves to any other person or object” on the land or parts of access roads and from building any structure.
The injunction prohibits abandoning vehicles or other items on parts of the sites’ access roads, as well as tunnelling under the roads or occupying existing tunnels. The injunction replaces an earlier High Court order granted on March 21 in similar terms.
It is designed to prevent protests in connection with the groups Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, Extinction Rebellion and Youth Climate Swarm, as well as anyone else who may carry out similar activities at the sites, and anyone found to be in breach of the injunction may be found in contempt of court and face a possible prison sentence.
In a ruling explaining his reasons for granting the injunction, Mr Justice Bennathan said: “The order I made forbids various acts of trespass, including the blocking of gates on Valero’s premises, and forbids acts of obstructing certain specified roadways, including public highways, in various semi-permanent ways. It does so for all seven sites.
“I made that order having been satisfied that: were the underlying claims ever to reach trial, Valero has a strong basis for an action for trespass and private and public nuisance on the basis of the protests that have already occurred on one site and are threatened for others.
“The harm caused by the activities I have sought to prevent by the terms of the injunction would amount to ‘grave and irreparable’ harm in that trespassing on the sites could lead to highly dangerous outcomes given the highly flammable or even explosive nature of the materials being handled.
“Semi-permanent obstruction of the roads could also lead to a different type of very serious damage, in that many of the sites are part of the Critical National Infrastructure and numerous businesses, emergency services, hospitals and other key parts of society depend on oil based fuels.”
The judge also made an order that relevant police forces should disclose material to Valero that would be evidence of any breaches of the injunction. He said the injunction will be reconsidered at a hearing in January next year to determine whether it is still necessary.
Sian Harrison is a reporter for PA. Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.