INEOS is promoting its view of the benefits of shale gas to parish and town councils in its English exploration areas at a series of daytime meetings next month.
Opponents of the company’s activities have described the meetings as a “sham consultation” and “a slick PR exercise”. They have criticised the events for excluding the public and any councillors who have day jobs.
The company has arranged three meetings in licence areas awarded during last year’s 14th round (see map). They are on consecutive dates during May at Chesterfield in Derbyshire, Frodsham in Cheshire and Malton in North Yorkshire (Details at the end of this post).
The invitations, sent to clerks of Parish and Town Councils, say the meetings are “part of INEOS’ commitment to open, transparent and ongoing communication with the communities in its licence areas.”
The chief executive of INEOS Shale, Gary Haywood, who signed the invitation, said:
“I would like to explain the role that an indigenous source of onshore gas from shale has to play as a raw material and source of secure energy for manufacturing. In doing so we will highlight how this has the potential to benefit the economy and the everyday lives of people in the UK.”
Mr Haywood also referred to the company’s proposed community benefits package which would give 4% of shale gas production revenue to people living above fracked wells and 2% to the “wider community close to its operations”.
A spokesperson for the company said:
“The purpose of the meetings is to introduce INEOS and INEOS Shale to Parish and Town Councillors, explain our view of the shale opportunity, what is involved and answer questions from the audience.”
“We are aware of the important role Parish and Town Councillors play in the community and wish to include them as part of our wide ranging and ongoing community engagement.”
The spokesperson said the meetings were “informational in nature and in no way replace full consultation as and when physical activity on the ground is contemplated.” Other members of the INEOS Shale team would attend, he said, and there would be exhibition materials and handouts.
Last autumn, INEOS organised 18 public drop-in meetings in its licence areas in central Scotland. In an interview with DrillOrDrop, Tom Pickering, operations director of INEOS Upstream, could not put a cost on those events but said it would be significant and would run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Frack Free Dee coalition has advertised what it calls a peaceful demonstration outside the meeting in Frodsham Details. Another demonstration is planned outside the meeting in Chesterfield. Details.
Frack Free Ryedale described the meeting in Malton as a “slick PR exercise”. It said:
“Some parish councillors, who are all volunteers, will be unable to attend because they have day jobs, and the wider public are being treated with utter contempt as they are completely excluded from this sham consultation.”
“Those councillors who are able to attend need to ask the many awkward questions about the real impact of fracking on local communities that INEOS hope to avoid by excluding the wider public.”
Ian Conlon, of Frack Free Ryedale, also criticised INEOS’s community benefit proposals. He said:
“It is interesting to note that payments in the United States range from 12% to 21% of revenues, so INEOS is also short changing the public in their effort to bribe people to accept fracking.”
“If you are on one of the parish councils and have an invite you will no doubt be slavering at the prospect of meeting Gary and the boys from across the pond. The rest of us must harbour the concerns that a company with a dubious history of compliance with safety matters at Grangemouth and elsewhere is proposing activity with a technology that is barely understood and tested in the UK.”
This isn’t the first time oil and gas companies have had informal meetings with local councillors. A Freedom of Information request by Frack Free North Yorkshire revealed that Pickering Town Council had a “private informal briefing” from Cuadrilla on 29th February 2016. The council confirmed there were no minutes or attendance list at the meeting.
Last month, the Driffield Times & Post reported that Driffield Town Council in East Yorkshire had agreed to an informal private meeting with Cuadrilla. This prompted local criticism that the event went against guidelines issued by the organisation, Communities, Town, Parish and Local Councils, which recommends on its website that councils avoid informal meetings “at all costs”.
“Not a public debate”
The spokesperson for INEOS said
“This series of presentations is designed specifically to provide information to Parish and Town Councillors as representatives of their communities and is not framed as a public debate. There will of course be a Q&A session.”
He said invitations had been sent to parish and town clerks where INEOS had or could find email details. One or two councillors were expected to attend on behalf of the council, he said, and report back to those unable to be at the meeting.
“We don’t have email details for absolutely all of them [council clerks] and some have not yet been invited as a result.”
“Clerks in the licence areas who have not yet received the invite are very welcome to contact us via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address for details of the meetings.”
Monday 9th May
Chesterfield presentation, 2pm-4.30pm, Speedwell Rooms, Inkersall Road, Chesterfield S43 3JL.
Peaceful demonstration outside INEOS meeting, gathering from 1.15pm onwards until 5pm, Speedwell Rooms, Inkersall Road, Chesterfield, S43 3JL. Details
Tuesday 10th May
Frodsham presentation, 10am-12 noon, Frodsham Community Centre, The Cottage, Fluin Lane, Frodsham, WA6 7QN.
Peaceful demonstration outside Frodsham Community Centre, 10am-12 noon, Details
Wednesday 11th May
Malton presentation, 10am-12 noon (Ryedale parishes) and 1.30pm-4pm (York parishes), The Milton Rooms, Market Place, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 7LX