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Government accused of blocking the release of information on fracking industry contacts

27th June 2014

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is criticised today for failing to release details of its contact with oil and gas companies on the issue of fracking.

A Freedom of Information request asked for details of correspondence and meetings between senior figures in the department and executives from IGas, Dart Energy, Tamboran Resources and Viking Energy. The request covered the period between 1st January 2013 and 28th May this year.

The response sent by DECC on Monday (23/6/14) said: “The Department wishes to be as open as possible in answering requests, and to help people obtain the information they are looking for. Unfortunately in this case, from our preliminary assessment, it is clear that to determine whether the Department holds the information you have requested and to locate, retrieve and extract the information would require a substantial volume of work.”

The response continues: “The work involved would be likely to involve a significant cost and diversion of resources from the teams concerned and the Department’s other work. Therefore, we will not process your request as currently drafted at this stage.”

DECC recommends the request is refined to “a particular set of correspondence or meeting”. It gives a link to the quarterly register of external meetings. But details provided here are slim. For example, the purpose of all the meetings in the most recent register for the Secretary of State, Ed Davey are said to be “To discuss energy and climate change”.

Mark Leftly, associate business editor of The Independent, said DECC had “outrageously declined what is a straightforward search of a few records, computer drives and email accounts for the information.” He described as “ludicrous” the recommendation to refine the request, “given that the whole point of this request was to establish what correspondence or meetings have occurred and when.”

He said it was “only natural that people would want to know just what meetings that executives from iGas and Dart – as well as those from rivals Tamboran Resources and Viking Energy – have had with ministers and senior officials.”

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