Cuadrilla threatens to poison the UK’s water, land and air through fracking. But already, its impact on British society, academia and public institutions can be described as corrosive. Cuadrilla also has a phenomenally destructive background. It is no wonder they have turned to a PR firm, Bell Pottinger, noted for representing some of the world’s most unsavoury clients, including human rights abusive governments such as Bahrain and global arms dealers BAE – two examples from a long terrible list.
Bell and Pottinger lead Cuadrilla’s PR assault: they are a firm not scared to get its hands dirty. Secret filming reveals its executives boasting their use of the ‘dark arts’ and connections to Britain’s top politicians.
Cuadrilla’s success in capturing Britain’s politicians is demonstrated in a leaked letter written by George Osborne. The Chancellor urges government departments to fast-track any applications made by Cuadrilla. A freedom of information request has also revealed the Westminster government has been in regular contact with Lancashire County Council, who are currently considering an application for Cuadrilla to start full-scale fracking.
In their 2012 brochure, Cuadrilla promised it “uses proven, safe technologies”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has censored these assertions for being “misleading, exaggerated and not substantiated.” In reality, Cuadrilla has had the only fully operational fracking well in the UK at Presse Hill, Lancashire; which caused earthquakes in 2011 and has since failed structurally.
An examination of Lord Browne, Cuadrilla’s ex-chairman (2007-2015), reinforces Cuadrilla’s destructive legacy. As former BP Chief Executive (1995-2007) Browne publically denied the oil giant pushed the UK government to invade Iraq. But official documents show his oil company discussed taking a share of Iraq’s oil, with the New Labour administration.
Also, Lord Browne’s mentality of cutting spending on safety during his tenure as BP chief executive has been blamed for causing the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Ominously, before the worst ever oceanic oil spill, he promised Deep Sea oil drilling would provide cheap and safe oil at low risk; since, he has made similar claims about “safe fracking”.
Browne supported his role at Cuadrilla by abusing his power at the unelected political post that was gifted to him, and becoming the key British advocate for fracking. With his track-record for prioritising efficiency not safety, he has incredulously been given oversight over selecting the other non-elected businessmen (they are mainly men) charged with overseeing the industry at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Based on the same track record, it is logical to think, Lord Browne has aimed Cuadrilla towards profits regardless of the impact.
The drive to frack over Britain shows a deep contempt for the public. Browne has exhibited this behaviour further. Recently he has joined L1 Energy, a Russian oil and gas company that is trying to sue the British government. Browne’s departure from Cuadrilla has caused its parent company AJ Lucas share price to plummet to new lows. As fracking companies rely on bank loans and investors’ cash, this raises questions of how long Cuadrilla can continue operating.
Another investor that is currently keeping Cuadrilla afloat is the Carlyle Group, a global asset management firm also referred to as the “ex-President’s Club”, as it often pays lucratively to former world leaders, including John Major and Tony Blair.
The Carlyle Group also invest in the military industrial complex through companies such as Haliburton, another company to profit highly from the Iraq War. Haliburton are the driving force in US fracking, in a similar way to Cuadrilla in the UK.
Haliburton’s former CEO Dick Cheney as Vice President helped write the ‘Haliburton Loophole’, American legislation that enables US fracking companies to bypass water safety rules. Like Lord Browne’s BP, Cheney’s former company Haliburton also has a direct role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In their multi-faceted PR onslaught, Cuadrilla has not only had a direct hand in selecting who oversees the regulations. They have been key players paying scientists to write science to suit their arguments. Talk Fracking’s ‘Frackademics’ report details how Cuadrilla have led the charge in the fracking industry’s infiltration of academia, including funding a department at the University of Manchester that will monitor Cuadrilla’s activities in Lancashire.
Through Lord Browne, Cuadrilla’s attack on universities has been two-pronged. He authored the Browne Review (2010), the largest shake-up of UK universities that meant student fees tripled. The review led to cuts in government spending on education, pushing universities to need to find cash by other means. The ‘Frackademics’ report illustrates how a great deal of academic funding now comes from the fossil fuel industry including Cuadrilla.
Even the Environment Agency has been infiltrated by Cuadrilla. The Chairman of the EA, Sir Phillip Dilley, comes from Arup, a firm previously contracted to Cuadrilla – where he is still listed as a trustee. The EA faces serious conflicts of interest due to its own pension pot holding significant investments in Centrica (with a £60m stake in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire operation), and in Riverstone Energy (owning a 44% stake in Cuadrilla).
Despite radioactive waste water from Cuadrilla’s fracking operations (prior to Octobert 2011) having been dumped into the Manchester Ship Canal, the Environment Agency recently granted a permit allowing Cuadrilla to produce 5.6 million gallons of radioactive waste in Lancashire. Does this come as any surprise?
Cuadrilla’s toxic impact reaches across the whole of British society. The power of their PR machine becomes all the more evident when you consider that these dots are not connected more often in critique of the company. Cuadrilla are eager to frack the UK but truth be told, they’ve been fracking us in other respects for quite some time now.