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Friends of the Earth banned from repeating misleading fracking claims in the UK

04 January 2017

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth (FOE) has been ordered not to repeat misleading claims it made in an anti-fracking leaflet, the UK Advertising Standards Authority watchdog announced on January 4. The leaflet claimed fracking chemicals could pollute drinking water and cause cancer and implied the process increases rates of asthma.

The ASA conducted a 14-month investigation after receiving complaints from energy company Cuadrilla and two individuals. The watchdog said it has "informally resolved" the case after FOE "agreed not to repeat the claims, or claims that had the same meaning".

An FOE spokeswoman said the watchdog had "dropped the case without ruling" and that the charity would "continue to campaign against fracking" because it was "inherently risky for the environment".

The leaflet claimed risky chemicals are used in the fracking process but Cuadrilla said such chemicals are banned in the UK.

A spokesman for the ASA said the FOE claims must not appear again in their current form and the FOE must not 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.

Cuadrilla's chief executive Francis Egan described FOE as "the unacceptable face of the charity sector", which had been "scaremongering" in order to "frighten the public into giving it money".
"[T]he charity's 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."

INEOS, also involved in UK onshore gas and oil exploration, said the ruling has made clear Friends of the Earth have been spreading false information and misleading the public.

INEOS Shale Operations Director Tom Pickering 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.

“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.”

Pickering said: “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 evaluating the geology and gas potential of a number of sites across England. It is also planning the next stages of an extensive community consultation programme.

In a landmark ruling for the UK shale gas industry, the government approved plans for horizontal fracking at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire in October.

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