Leaflet decision delight for pro-fracking groups

Friends of the Earth leaflet September 2015
Friends of the Earth leaflet September 2015
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Fracking supporters have welcomed a decision by the Advertising Standards Agency against environmental group Friends of the Earth.

The ASA has said that a leaflet published in 2015 by FOE, which featured a photograph of a prominent local campaigner, made claims which it could not back up with evidence.

A fracking rig at Anna's Road, Westby Sept 2012

A fracking rig at Anna's Road, Westby Sept 2012

The leaflet was distributed in September with the slogan “Pat (Davies) saved her home from fracking, you can save yours too”.

Shale gas exploration company Cuadrilla complained to the ASA, as did other campaigners, and now after FOE asked for time to put together evidence to back their claims, the ASA has said FOE has agreed not to republish it.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “After many attempts by Friends of the Earth to delay this decision, the charity’ admission that all of the claims it made, that we complained about, were false should hopefully put a stop to it misleading the UK public on fracking.

“Friends of the Earth’s repeated falsehoods have been exposed as nothing more than scaremongering designed to frighten the public into giving it money. It is the unacceptable face of the charity sector.”

He said the agreement covers the claims that:

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 the 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 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.

Pro-fracking pressure group Backing Fracking has also welcomed the ruling.

Dr Graham Marshall, a supporter of pro-shale residents group Backing Fracking said: “They’ve spent years frightening people with their scare stories and it’s frankly unacceptable. Ordinary residents that received this leaflet and donated to Friends of the Earth have been deceived.

“Backing Fracking will be writing to victims to advise them on the actions they can take to seek redress.”

Lancashire-based fracking campaigner Michael Roberts said: “FoE has fought tooth and nail for over a year to stop the publication of this information which is highly damaging to their anti fracking campaign.

“They have had to promise not to repeat these claims, as they have been unable to provide evidence to support them.”

A spokesman from the ASA today confirmed the decision.

He said: “We approached Friends of the Earth with the concerns that had been raised about its ad. The advertiser agreed not to repeat the claims, or claims that had the same meaning.

“On that basis we closed the case informally. The ad must not appear again in its current form.

“We have told Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd and Friends of the Earth Ltd not to make claims about the likely effects of fracking on the health of local populations, drinking water, or property prices in the absence of adequate evidence.”

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 is inherently risky.”