Greenpeace UK are among 172 organisations and residents’ community groups that signed Talk Fracking’s open letter calling the Task Force on Shale Gas a PR stunt to push through Fracking undemocratically. [1] Of the 172 signatories, there are 19 national campaign organisations and 153 residents’ community groups. According to these groups, Lord Chris Smith, who heads up the Task Force on Shale Gas, is simply a prop used by Edelman PR to supposedly investigate the pros and cons of Shale Gas and then provide a glowing report back to Government. We are sending a clear message that the UK Government should ignore the findings of the Task Force and consider its reports nothing more than “untrustworthy propaganda”.

 Are Edelman a sinking ship?

Edelman were fired last year by TransCanada after Greenpeace leaked their plans to invent 35,000 ‘fake grassroots activists’ to support Energy East for a campaign in Washington DC and then discredit opposition to the pipeline. [2]

In the last two months, four high-level executives have resigned from Edelmanbecause the company is trying to play on both sides of the climate debate. [3] They are also losing key clients including ‘We Mean Business’, a coalition of more than 100 companies including IKEA, Nike and The Climate Group, advocating bold action on climate change. The coalition terminated a contract with Edelman PR last autumn after controversy arose over the firm’s work for fossil fuel industry clients.

CREDO Action, a social change organisation funded by CREDO Mobile, has launched a petition to tell Edelman to stop “promoting” climate change. The petition has over 53,000 signatories. It says: “The fact is, in the face of the overwhelming evidence on climate change, any attempt to continue promoting fossil fuels and fossil fuel expansion is outright denial.” [4] It seems Edelman PR’s fossilized viewpoint on climate change could soon see the company sink, along with the dinosaur fossil fuel industry that it represents.

A report without evidence

On Wednesday 15th July, the Task Force on Shale Gas, setup by Edelman PR, released its second report on the potential impacts of fracking on the UK, this time looking at environmental and health impacts. [5] The report concludes that fracking can be done safely if drilling is “done properly and to the highest standard.” The report highlights failures in US fracking regulations and monitoring but blames “poor practice” for the detrimental environmental impacts that have devastated local communities, rather than the process of fracking itself.

In their reports, Edelman PR and their Task Force on Shale Gas, have ignored the increasing number of scientific studies from the US warning us that fracking can cause serious health implications including birth defects and cancer. Furthermore, recent reports warning of the serious health impacts of fracking by respected independent and impartial British bodies, including MEDACT [6] and CHEM Trust [7], have been insulted.

The Task Force on Shale Gas, masterminded by Edelman PR, assumes that fracking can be made safe with the right level of regulation but there is no evidence to support this. Where is the evidence to prove that any level of fracking regulations has made this dangerous technology safe, anywhere in the world? This report is an attempt to reinforce the oil and gas industry’s long-running rhetoric that the damage done by fracking overseas can be mitigated here in the UK should we employ “gold standard regulations” that will somehow make safe an inherently risky, dirty, dangerous practice. Where is the evidence?

In January, an analysis of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry over a 4-year period, by the ‘Environment America Research and Policy Center’, revealed a range of oil and gas companies, from Fortune 500 companies to small operators, struggle to meet even modest regulations —averaging more than one environmental violation every day. [8] The fracking industry is infamous for its idle approach to health and safety – only interested in cutting costs and prone to violating rules intended to protect human health and the environment.

The Task FARCE on Shale Gas

The Task Force on Shale Gas, led by former environment agency head and fracking enthusiast Chris Smith, is a PR ruse invented by the notorious fossil fuel PR company Edelman and funded by the oil and gas industry. Despite the Task Force on Shale Gas insisting they are working for the benefit of the public, in an open and transparent way; Chris Smith has repeatedly avoided answering any questions regarding the involvement of the notorious fossil fuel PR company Edelman in creating the Task Force on Shale Gas and appointing him to lead it. When we asked to see details of communications and correspondence from PR companies involved with the Task Force on Shale Gas, they failed to even respond to our request. [9] We tried to speak with Chris Smith face to face, but he could not even look us in the eye. [10]

Whose idea was this Task Force on Shale Gas?  Who recruited Chris Smith as the head? How have PR companies been involved in the decision making process? These questions remain unanswered yet they expect the British public to trust them with fracking. Our line of questioning has been met with silence from Edelman PR and the Task Force on Shale Gas but their silence speaks volumes – they have lost any basis for debate. Edelman say that its clients must commit to “fact-based, truthful and transparent communications” [11] but this is so obviously not the case where it concerns the Task Force on Shale Gas.

Chris Smith has been caught red-handed walking through the revolving door between politics and industry. Working for the fracking industry was an obvious move after heading the Environment Agency, regulating the very industry he now works for. His time at the Environment Agency ended after considerable scandal because he neglected his responsibility to protect the environment when he colluded with Cuadrilla. He agreed to intervene with Lancashire County Council over Cuadrilla’s planning permission and conspired to halve the consultation time for a fracking waste permit [12].

Signatories including Greenpeace UK, Climate Revolution and 38 Degrees now agree that Chris Smith is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that this PR stunt orchestrated by Edelman is not fooling anybody.

Before the close of the last parliament, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, gave weight to the Task Force on Shale Gas, making the recommendation that the government should “fully engage” with the work of the Task Force on Shale Gas. [13] Energy Minister Matthew Hancock responded on behalf of the government saying “the Task Force is well placed to consider these issues and we look forward to its findings with interest.” [14] At the time it was not known that the Task Force on Shale Gas was a PR exercise for the fracking industry, produced by the notorious Edelman PR group. But the Task Force on Shale Gas can no longer be taken seriously – it’s a complete farce.

Talk Fracking

#ComeCleanChris

 

Media Coverage:

http://www.desmog.uk/2015/07/31/edelman-pr-s-ties-fracking-and-climate-denial-still-cause-concern-new-petitions-show

 

References:

[1] http://www.talkfracking.org/news-archive/come-clean-chris-the-task-force-on-shale-gas-cannot-be-trusted

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/business/transcanada-cuts-ties-with-edelman-over-energy-east-communications-plan.html

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jul/07/pr-edelman-climate-change-lost-executives-clients

[4] http://act.credoaction.com/sign/edelman

[5] https://www.taskforceonshalegas.uk/news-and-events/task-force-launches-second-interim-report

[6] http://www.talkfracking.org/news-archive/uk-health-professionals-call-for-moratorium-on-fracking

[7] http://www.talkfracking.org/news/chem-trust-calls-for-eu-wide-moratorium-on-fracking

[8] http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/27/fracking-industrys-failure-regulations

[9] http://www.talkfracking.org/frackademics/letter-chris-smith

[10] http://www.talkfracking.org/news/politicians-are-criminals-come-clean-chris

[11] https://www.edelman.com/who-we-are/values-and-mission/statement-of-purpose

[12] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/21/owen-paterson-urgent-meeting-fracking-cuadrilla-lord-browne

[13] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvaud/856/85602.htm

[14] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environmental-audit-committee/environmental-risks-of-fracking/written/18683.html