It was unclear last night if Friends of the Earth / Scotland has duped its legal advisors in two firms of Scottish and London lawyers about the claimed accuracy of its evidence in the appeal against the Scot-Govt ban on fracking (aka onshore oil and gas exploration).
Friends of Earth Scotland has submitted a ‘public interest’ legal intervention in the INEOS and Reach Coal Seam Gas judicial review of the Scot-Govt decision to ban fracking.
The intervention argues that not only is the ban on fracking lawful, but that the Scottish Government is arguably required to ban fracking in order to meet Scotland’s legally binding climate change commitments.
INEOS is both challenging the legality of the ban on fracking and suing the Scot-Govt for compensation due to an alleged breach of its human rights. The case is due to be heard next month in the Court of Session – Scotland’s supreme court.
Sindi Mules, a solicitor at the Balfour and Manson legal services company, said: “Over 60,000 people engaged in the consultation on fracking before <Scot-Govt.> Ministers implemented the ban, with 99% opposed to the industry, demonstrating the tremendous importance of this case.
“We are delighted to be involved in this intervention which puts forward important legal arguments on climate change, and trust it ensures a fuller picture of the context around the ban is put before the court.”
However, the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled last year that claims about ‘fracking’ (aka onshore oil and gas exploration) were misleading.
These same misleading claims were repeated in mass ’round-robin’ online letters published by FoES to be used in responses to the consequently-flawed Scot-Govt consultation about its fracking ban – hence prima facie ‘polluting’ and under-mining the credibility of FoES claims.
Neither Sindi Mules at Edinburgh-based Balfour and Manson nor Carol Leigh, an environmental law expert at the London-based Leigh Day law firm, were able to answer the following key question arising:
“Did Friends of Earth dupe its Scots and London lawyers over its use of banned ‘evidence’ in INEOS anti-fracking appeal?”
Similarly, Friends of Earth Scotland also failed to reply – never mind answer – this question as Scottish Energy News went to online press last night.
The question is pivotal to the Friends of Earth Scotland case; if the answer is ‘yes’ then its legal attempt to scupper INEOS’s appeal against the Scottish Government ‘fracking’ ban will likely collapse – leaving the court with no option but to uphold INEOS’s appeal.
This is because the Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse himself relied to heavily in his Scot-Govt statement to MPs in Holyrood in the key vote which empowered Wheelhouse to ban fracking.
Such an outcome would not only have significant commercial consequences for onshore oil and gas exploration activities in Scotland, it would also incur heavy political political consequences – which could include the resignation of Wheelhouse himself.
1 May 2018
Fibbing by Friends of Earth with false fracking claims will make Scot-Govt’s final public consultation on shale gas worthless
Petro-chemicals giant INEOS – which owns and operates the Grangemouth oil refinery – has today welcomed the decision of the UK Advertising Standards Authority that claims made by the Friends of the Earth misled the public about the safety of shale-gas fracking.
The ruling comes after an exhaustive 14-month investigation found that Friends of the Earth (FOE) could not substantiate a number of scare stories.
Tom Pickering, INEOS Shale Operations Director, said: “The false claims have formed the heart of the FOE’s wrongheaded opposition to fracking and we are pleased to see the record corrected.
“INEOS is always happy to debate on the facts and answer any questions and concerns that members of the public or groups may have. However, as today’s ruling has made clear Friends of the Earth have been spreading false information and misleading the public about this important issue.
“For too long Friends of the Earth, and their Scottish counterparts Friends of the Earth Scotland, have been wilfully misleading the public on fracking to fulfil their anti-fossil fuel agenda. Hopefully this ruling will be a lesson to those organisations but more importantly give the public cause to reflect on the duplicity they have been subjected to by Friends of the Earth.”
The Advertising Standards Authority found that Friends of the Earth was unable to support claims that chemicals used in fracking were dangerous to humans and that a US fracking site caused an increase in asthma and that the public in Britain would be a similar risk if they lived near to a fracking site. FOE adverts that also claimed falling house prices and risks of cancer were as a result of fracking would also not be allowed to be run again.
Pickering added: “We have previously offered to meet with Friends of the Earth, and also Friends of the Earth Scotland, to have a grown-up science based discussion of the issues around shale gas extraction but unsurprisingly neither organisation wishes to engage with us.
“We will continue, however, to try to make this meeting happen as our energy and manufacturing sectors are too important to allow fake facts to influence the debate. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with all parties based on the true realities of shale gas.
INEOS is currently progressing with surveys to evaluate the geology and gas potential of its sites across England. It is also planning the next stages of its extensive community consultation programme.
Partly in response to the ‘fear and ignorance’ campaign conducted by Friends of the Earth, the minority SNP Scottish Government imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on shale gas drilling operations – including exploratory-only test-drills to ascertain the scale of the Scottish shale resources – in January 2015.
Since then, the independent scientific review of the evidence by the Scot-Govt’s own experts concluded – for the second time – that shale gas exploration could be safely carried out onshore in the Central Belt, where INEOS holds exploration licences from the UK government.
Subsequently, Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Energy Minister threw these expert findings into the ‘court of public opinion’ in a final public ‘consultation’.
As a result of the Advertising Standards Authority ruling that Friends of the Earth widely mis-led the public, any Scottish public consultation ‘findings’ that oppose onshore shale gas exploration will be factually ‘polluted’ as a result of the spurious FoE claims.
See also: –
UK onshore oil and gas industry welcomes withdrawal of false fracking claims by Friends of the Earth
UKOOG, the trade body for the onshore oil and gas industry, welcomes today’s publication of the UK Advertising Standards Association’s final ruling on Friends of the Earth’s leaflet ‘Pat Saved Her Home From Fracking. You Can Save Yours too’.
The ASA found that the leaflet, which went to thousands of homes inviting them to donate up to £50 to the charity, was misleading in the following claims: –
Four Falsehoods from Friends of the Earth
FALSE; The fluid used in fracking contains chemicals dangerous to human health, and that the fluid would, as a natural consequence of the act of fracking, contaminate the drinking water of nearby communities because it remained underground;
FALSE: The US fracking site [the FoE leaflet] referred to was responsible for the increase in asthma rates, and that the public would be at risk of equivalent increases in asthma rates by living or working near a fracking site in the UK;
FALSE: That there is an established risk of the chemicals concerned causing cancer and other conditions among the local population, when used in fracking in the UK, and that:
FALSE: Fracking will cause plummeting house prices.
Friends of the Earth has agreed to withdraw all the claims and has agreed that “it will not repeat the claims, or claims which have the same meaning, in future”.
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UKOOG, said: “This is an important ruling by the authority, which consulted with numerous independent scientific, health and regulatory experts before concluding that the anti-fracking myths perpetrated by Friends of the Earth were fundamentally false.
“The opponents of onshore oil and gas development must withdraw their scaremongering rhetoric and argue on the basis of the facts, which quite clearly show that the risks associated with fracking can be mitigated by the strong regulation and world renowned best practice that we benefit from in the UK.