Green group's legal challenge could help halt fracking plans
Campaigners in Somerset are backing an internet legal challenge by Greenpeace to fracking across England.
Environmentalists fear that the Mendips could become a gas field if controversial drilling for shale gas and coal bed methane goes ahead.
Both Chewton Mendip and Ston Easton have been mooted as possible test drilling sites.
A website intended to halt fracking plans across the UK was launched in Lancashire on Monday and is said to be gathering momentum around the country.
Greenpeace says fracking companies' plans to drill horizontally under people's homes is unlawful and the website wrongmove.org encourages residents to register their opposition.
A spokesman for Gas Field Free Mendip said: "If you own land, your rights extend to all the ground beneath it. That means if someone drills under your home without permission it is a trespass.
"People are signing up to Greenpeace's legal block because they believe that fracking is dangerous and wrong for the Mendip area and Somerset as a whole."
Environmental law firm Harrison Grant partner Kate Harrison said: "The common law on this is clear. If fracking companies don't seek and receive permission for drilling under people's homes they will be liable for trespass.
"Companies would do well to respect people's rights and not push on with drilling plans where they're not wanted."
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "Fracking is a desperate ploy by this Government to keep the UK hooked on fossil fuels, when we should be moving towards cleaner, safer energy sources. Fracking is risky for local environments, risky for our water supplies and risky for the global climate."
But UK Onshore Operators Group spokesman Ken Cronin said Greenpeace was misguided.
Mr Cronin said: "Operators in this country are abiding by the law which states that activities at depths of over a mile under the ground do not impact landowners, however in line with the law, operators will inform all landowners in a very clear and transparent manner.
"Underground working is hardly something that is employed by just the oil and gas industry but includes, pipelines, fibre-optics, geothermal energy and transport tunnelling to name but a few."