A £36,000 contract to investigate the environmental impacts of prospective fracking operates to recover shale gas between the Scottish Government and Ramboll Environ has been cancelled by mutual agreement.
Ramboll won the contract after a public tender process by the Scot-Govt as part of its consultation over whether to life its present moratorium on unconventional oi and gas onshore exploration, which is due to concude in Spring 2017.
As part of this, the SNP-led Scottish Government has commissioned a number of independent scientific reports.
However, Labour MSPs put down a motion in parliament expressing concern at an apparent conflict of interest after it was revealed that a Ramboll Environ employee had also published postings on social media websites in support of unconventional oil and gas exploration, saying she was ‘backing fracking’
The motion by Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack, was passed in Holyrood earlier this week. It said:
- ‘That the Parliament is very concerned at the reported award of a £36,000 contract to Ramboll Environ to investigate the environmental impact of fracking; understands that, on several occasions, Ramboll Environ’s senior researcher on the impact of fracking, Katharine Blythe, has publicly supported it being carried out in Scotland, including appearing on behalf of Dart Energy at a planning inquiry to support an application to frack gas at Airth and supporting INEOS when it won the shale gas licensing bids, and questions the competence of the contract awarding process and how someone with what it sees as such a clear public position could be commissioned to carry out so-called independent research.”
Senior Consultant Katherine Blythe was one of the Ramboll Environ experts who contributed to the industry reference book – Environmental and Health Issues in Unconventional Oil and Gas Development – published last year.
Scottish Energy News: 22 Feb 2016: http://goo.gl/OcsYDV
Later, a Scot-Govt spokesman said: “The impartiality and integrity of this research is crucial and the issues raised regarding this contract may call this into question.
“As a consequence we have agreed with the contractor, by mutual consent, not to proceed with the contract.
“The Scottish government has publicly committed to carry out one of the world’s most comprehensive and impartial research programmes into fracking and an extensive public consultation which will allow interested parties to express their views.
“This will continue.”
Matt Davies, UK managing principal of Ramboll Environ, said: “Ramboll Environ has always, and will always, place the highest priority on scientific integrity and independence.
“As such, we are confident that our team would have provided a high-quality, scientifically defensible study to the Scottish Government.
“The views expressed on social media by one member of the team, who has resigned from the firm on her own accord, may have distracted from the objectivity of our findings. These views were personal in nature and do not in any way represent the opinion or position of Ramboll Environ.
“Nonetheless, we have withdrawn from the contract through mutual agreement with the Scottish government.”