In 2017 Friends of the Earth had their knuckles wrapped by the Advertising Standards Authority for a very inaccurate leaflet on fracking.
They, especially Tony Bosworth and Craig Bennett, tried to talk their way out of the inaccuracies!!
Some of us received this leaflet in periodicals we subscribed to in October 2015.
A delicious irony of this leaflet is that trying to frack at Grasmere would fail as the rocks are almost entirely Borrowdale volcanics! But there is the emotive appeal of showing William Wordsworth’s home village.
Due to its many errors we (MBR and KW) decided to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. Our complaints focussed on these claims
If these were true fracking would be a non-starter and should be opposed. It took 15 long months with KW writing backwards and forwards to the ASA as FoE tried to wriggle out of our complaints. Finally after well over a year FoE agreed not to use the arguments again.
Here is a blog from 2015 with our complaints of Friends of the Earth distortions
The response from Friends of the Earth is a bit odd to say the least
Donna Hume, senior campaigner, Friends of the Earth, said:
“Cuadrilla’s complaint isn’t surprising from a profit-driven fracking company, after all, they have shareholders to keep happy.
They started this process to distract from the real issues about fracking, and how burning fossil fuels is dangerous for climate change. This is a pro-fracking company doing all they can to shut down opposition to fracking. It hasn’t worked though. What’s happened instead is that the ASA has dropped the case without ruling.
“We continue to campaign against fracking, alongside local people, because the process of exploring for and extracting shale gas is inherently risky for the environment, this is why fracking is banned or put on hold in so many countries.”
What follows is first our press release and secondly an account of Friends of the Earth’s activities in Lancashire during the last five years
Press Release 3rd January 2017
Friends of the Earth caught Misleading the Public (Embargo till 4th January)
Two pensioners expose false claims from a respected ‘charity’
For the past couple of years, Ken Wilkinson and Michael Roberts have been questioning the supposed science behind many claims made by anti frack groups and made complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In all cases, these groups have failed to justify their claims, and have withdrawn their adverts, on the condition that they do not present them again. This is the usual practice of the ASA. A ‘mea culpa’ admission of error is made and this is published on the ASA website. This avoids the embarrassment of the complaint details becoming public.
The adverts complained about are
Frack Free Somerset (2014)
Frack Free Alliance. (2015)
Resident Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF 2015)
Frack Free Ryedale, and finally, the big one,
A leaflet from Friends of the Earth (FoE) (2015)
FoE have fought tooth and nail for over a year to stop the publication of this information which is highly damaging to their anti fracking campaign. It covers the key points used to scare the public.
The ASA, for more than a year, consulted with experts and corresponded with FoE…. and still the ASA concluded that FoE were misleading the public on all counts.
FoE appeared desperate to protect their claims after the draft report was leaked and reported on the front page of The Times by asking for several time extensions.
However FoE knew they could not substantiate their misleading claims and have agreed with the ASA that future ads will not include claims that imply:
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;
the US fracking site 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;
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;
that fracking will cause plummeting house prices.
They have had to promise not to repeat these claims, as they have been unable to provide evidence to support them. This means that the whole rationale of their campaign against shale gas is based on pseudoscience.
It is also a matter of serious concern that a supposed charity uses false information to raise money, using the cover of a limited company, to avoid reputational damage(see page 4). After an article from The Times, it is also unclear whether people are donating to a limited company or a charity.
We will be contacting FoE to see if they will give an assurance that they will comply with the promises they have made to the ASA not to repeat their false claims. We understand the ASA have stated
‘FoE also explained that they would be willing not to repeat the claims, or claims which have the same meaning, in future, and we have therefore agreed to close the case informally.’
The ASA only cover paid for advertising, but an untruth is an untruth, wherever it appears.
Perhaps the press could contact FoE to see what they plan to do?
Will FoE continue to go around to local areas spreading false information?
Will the Charity Commission accept deliberate misinformation from an NGO?
Will they remove the false claims from their website?
Will they advise protest groups that they have been caught misleading the public?
Will they modify their support material to remove misleading and false information?
What will the Fund Raising Standards Board have to say? (We have also complained to them)
Please feel free to contact to discuss further. The ASA will simply record that an advert has been withdrawn and that FoE have promised not to repeat their claims. Due to be published 4th Jan 2017
Please respect the 4th January embargo
Please be aware that we are both totally independent of the industry. We feel that it is immoral for anti frack campaigners to spread fear, (and hence opposition) based on incorrect science, fabrication of evidence, and deliberate scaremongering. Risks need to be properly evaluated, by engineers and scientists. The Royal Academy of Engineering looked at this in 2012 and found it to be ‘low risk’ (ie. safe) and that has been reflected in many other expert technical reports. We are NOT ‘pro fracking’ as such, we are anti BS, such as that put about by FoE. KW+MBR
Account of FoE in Lancashire 2011 -2017
Friends of the Earth
FoE needs little introduction as one of the leading Green NGOs. Their involvement in Lancashire goes back five years and here is a brief account of their activities
In about 2011 FoE adopted an anti-fracking position nationally and members became involved in the Fylde. Andy Atkins CEO of FoE visited the Fylde 12/1011 and encouraged local groups
Speaking at a Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF) event in Hesketh Bank, Andy Atkins said
we should focus on renewables – not dirty energy and unproven practices.
Local residents formed REAF after energy company Cuadrilla Resources announced plans to extract gas by fracking across Lancashire.
The controversial technique involves fracturing the rock and then using water, sand and chemicals to release the gas.
There are credible health and environmental concerns over fracking.
Only this year Cuadrilla stopped drilling after a second earthquake in 2 monthshit the Blackpool area. Investigations into a possible link are on-going.
And to avoid dangerous climate change we need to invest in green power and cut energy waste. The carbon footprint of gas is much bigger than that of renewable energy.
Shale gas is neither clean nor proven to be safe. Drilling it will cause climate-changing emissions and could pollute water supplies.
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth
Andy Atkins reassured Lancastrians that the UK’s huge green energy potential could:
- Stabilise energy bills long term
- Create thousands of skilled jobs in Lancashire and throughout the UK
Friends of the Earth is pushing for a moratorium on fracking – like those already in place in France and some US states.
Atkins 13/10/11 on fracking
On 17/4/12 Atkins wrote to Lancashire Evening Post
“We don’t want tremor causing fracking”
Andy Atkins, the charity’s executive director, said:
“We don’t need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs – we need a seismic shift in energy policy. “Earth tremors aren’t the only risks associated with fracking, it’s also been linked to air and water pollution and produces gas that causes climate change. A short consultation on one of the problems is inadequate.”
[note that the agreement with ASA means Atkins was wrong]
21/7/13 Atkins gave a green award to RAFF http://www.frackingdigest.co.uk/210713.htm
“Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has awarded ‘Campaign of the Year’ to RAFF – Residents Action on Fylde Fracking.
RAFF said –
“The REAL prize comes WHEN we stop shale gas and other unconventional energy extraction here in the UK and beyond… but for now, this award presents a great opportunity to access the resources and support of Friends of the Earth who have groups throughout the UK and the world.”
Accepting the award, Julie Daniels of RAFF mentioned all the founding members and said that
“the award was for ALL the anti-fracking groups who have worked tirelessly to confront this threat to our communities. Praise, thanks and inclusion in the acceptance of the award went to Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, Frack Free Fylde, Refracktion, Defend Lytham. BIFF ! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free), Frack OFF and others. “
Presenting the award, Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth said:
“We’re delighted to recognise Residents Against Fylde Fracking for their outstanding campaigning against dirty shale gas. They have inspired communities across the UK with their creativity and commitment, and show what can be achieved when a group of ordinary people come together to protect their community. They deserve to win not just this award but the bigger battle against fracking.”
2014 local worker H Rimmer at was at RAFF meetings in support. At one meeting were given the brochure Shale Gas:the Facts, which was the subject our our first complaint to the ASA on groups in Lancashire
2015 FOE organised training days for local groups in Lancashire assisting them with presentations at the hearings at County Hall Preston in June 2015. (I heard most of the presentations, which were mostly inaccurate.)
The LCC’s planning officer’s Development Control Committee report for the Preston New Road planning application (P471/472 was thorough and detailed
In it he said;
“Up to the end of May 2015 a total of 13448 representations objecting to the proposal had been received. 5 were received as duplicate letters from the same individuals. 1797 of the objections were from within Fylde and this is 2.9% of the adult population (2.37% of total population of Fylde Borough) and 116 were from within a 2km radius of the site. 6329 of the representations were from received from outside Lancashire. Of the total number of objections 1251 are individual letters and 13433 template letters many of which were submitted by Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Lancashire.”
As the hearings had almost finished in June 2015 the FoE barrister gave opinion contrary to LCC barrister to cllrs. This appears to have swung the final decision.
The fact that LCC permitted unsolicited legal opinion, procured by Friends of the Earth, to be put before the development control committee in June last year but refused to let councillors see legal opinion obtained by UKOOG just shows how “local democracy” has been usurped by fracking opponents.
In October 2015 the leaflet Don’t let fracking destroy all of this was paid for to be included in The Sunday Times, Private Eye and Simple Things. From here we put in our complaint to the ASA, which resulted in much correspondence between us, the ASA and FoE.
In 2016 Jan The Times ran an article on the concern over the leaflet
In 2016 Feb/Mar there was an Foe barrister at Blackpool hearings on the appeal by Cuadrilla
It is difficult not to conclude that FoE influenced locals and whipped up opposition. So that groups became echo-chambers for FoE and anti views
Leaflet omits main reason for opposition is Climate change
The Year of our Lord 2022
It seems that Friends of the earth has not learnt from its previous bad behaviour and continues in its old ways!