Fracking in the news

breitling-woodring-no-timestampFracking has been hitting the headlines this weekend with The Times covering the news that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has criticised Friends of the Earth (FoE) saying that it failed to substantiate claims that fracking could cause cancer, contaminate water supplies, increase asthma rates and send house prices plummeting. The claims were made on a leaflet it distributed asking for donations to help stop fracking.

This has been a consistent criticism made by the industry of campaigners for a number of years now – tactics of sensationalism, over-exaggeration and in some cases issuing misleading information has led to the public being understandably mortified at the prospect of this devil called fracking coming to their neighbourhood.

The industry has not done a good job at countering this misinformation, seemingly standing by and letting the campaigners agitate the public near where fracking may take place, rousing them into a fever-pitch of opposition, all based upon questionable and selected facts from some quite dubious sources. This will, of course, back-fire on the campaign groups, including FoE, which will be seen once this is all over to have ‘over-egged the pudding’, with the subsequent damage to their reputation and ultimately, loss of supporters.

But what happens to those sites where fracking is likely to come forward, specifically Lancashire and North Yorkshire? According to The Guardian this morning, not much this year. Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s refusal earlier this year will be resolved within weeks, and the work in North Yorkshire, approved recently, is now delayed due to a legal challenge from FoE.

It will be interesting to see the arguments tabled by FoE considering the recent ASA ruling. Although such legal challenges are based on procedure, I am sure the group will not miss the opportunity to publicise its opposition to fracking on wider issues. It was somewhat ironic, considering the ASA criticism, that the Guardian today quoted Tony Bosworth, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, saying: “Reality and rhetoric parted ways long ago…” although this comment was actually directed at the Government.

Ineos, the huge chemical conglomerate which was previously keen to push ahead with fracking, has not submitted any planning applications to date. It has been one of the more innovative, proposing to give local residents a cut of the revenues from fracking similar in many respects to the royalties payments in the US.

There has been some progress in Nottinghamshire with officers there due to publish recommendations to the council on an application for fracking in the county to be considered next month.

So where does that leave the public? There still remains a big job to do to convince people that fracking is safe, but that will be largely achieved once the first well has been fracked and the world not ended.