Guest Post by Mat Hope: “Secretive industry conference” seeks to persuade people fracking is a good idea

PNR 170321 Ros Wills

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool, 21 March 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

A secretive fracking conference sponsored by Dow Chemical and Halliburton and featuring speakers from a range of publically-funded government agencies is taking place somewhere in Birmingham today. In this Guest Post, Mat Hope, of Desmog UK, reports on what is known about the conference and what it is has sought to keep quiet.

The UK Onshore Oil and Gas: Policy, Planning and Future Developments conference aims to encourage delegates to pursue fossil fuel extraction in the UK.

The conference is “designed to give help, guidance and support to the public sector to ensure delegates attending have the right and most accurate information on onshore oil and gas and environmental planning”, according to its website. It will also explore ways “to minimise environmental impacts, such as the treatment of waste water from drilling operations, noise pollution and traffic management, to local communicates [sic]”, the website says.

The organisers, the ironically named Open Forum Events, told DeSmog UK press passes for the event are “limited” with only a few chosen national and trade journalists being allowed into the conference.

Its location is being kept secret due to “the sensitivity of the subject”. This is “company policy”, the organisers told DeSmog UK.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of industry lobby group UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) will chair the event. DeSmog UKrecently revealed how UKOOG sits in a network of global fracking organisations that pour lobbying money into the UK parliament.

Dow Chemical is also part of this network, having given £2,500 to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas in 2016. Oil giant BP has a 16 percent stake in the chemical giant.

Andrew Mullaney, Lancashire County Council’s head of planning and environment is also speaking at the event. Mullaney has been under pressure in recent months as local residents continue to protest against Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations at Preston New Road.

He will certainly be an authoritative voice – Mullaney recently claimed he spent a third of his time monitoring the Preston New Road site, with another planning officer spending two-thirds of their time on the work.

Mark Hill, head of development management for the North York Moors National Park Authority will also speak at the event. In 2015, six licenses were granted to companies including Cuadrilla and Ineos to potentially frack in the national park.

The government officials will be joined by a number of prominent industry voices.

Sean Macfayden, a consultant for US energy giants Halliburton, is set to deliver insights on how the company identifies new, unconventional, oil and gas reservoirs. In 2010, Halliburton pleaded guilty to destroying evidence after Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Jason Nisse from PR firm Newgate will also deliver a talk on what the programme describes as a “war of attrition with opponents of so-called ‘fracking’”. The programme promises he will tell the industry audience about the PR lessons his company has learned over the past four years, and what to expect in the future,

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, where Third Energy have applied to frack, will discuss the “the pressure on politicians who are supportive of Shale Gas”, the programme says. Hollinrake supports fracking “if it is safe and has no significant impact on the countryside”, according to his website.

The event will also feature speakers from publicly-funded government agencies included the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency.

Environmental groups and civil society voices are notably absent from the programme.

DrillOrDrop’s Ruth Hayhurst was declined a press pass to the event for the second year in a row. DeSmog UK was also denied a press pass, as were a number of other environmental journalists we spoke to.

This piece was first published on DeSmog UK on 28 March 2017

18 replies »

  1. How can this industry ever expect respect or acceptance from the public behaving in this way?

    Donations made to the shale APPG by a company with a vested interest in fracking and the event sponsored by companies with a vested interest in fracking simply demonstrates once again the way this industry operates. It uses money to try and buy support, influence and lobby. And whilst this may have worked in the past, when there was no significant alternatives to fossil fuels, when climate change was not high profile, when all political parties were supportive, this may have been successful. But times have changed.

    Exxon Mobil is under investigation for suppressing scientific evidence on climate change, we have the Paris Agreement in place and climate change is high on the global agenda. Plus we have the unstoppable growth of renewables and renewable technology.

    The onshore industry operating in this way reinforces the perception of how despised this industry is and how desperate it has become. Holding events in this way will be viewed by many as a complete PR disaster as they will consider it smacks of desperation. How can an industry that states it operates for the benefit of the UK and seeks to extract a UK resource ever be successful if it has to resort to this?

    Restricting the press, restricting attendance and keeping the venue sectet are the actions of an industry in hiding, an industry only able to preach to the converted. Such behaviour can only create further mistrust, resentment and anger.

  2. What about some articles about all the meetings going on to persuade people that Fracking is a bad idea? I suppose all these Fracking companies would be welcome at those.

    • Most local meetings arranged by those opposed to fracking are public, advertised and entry is free.
      And there is nothing to stop industry holding public meetings either. The fact they hold so few or ones that are only open to selective audiences or even like this one held in secret – shows they know they have little public support.

  3. Good idea to keep it secret. Otherwise there will just be a mass of protestors behaving badly. The science is good so these influential people need to know where to get reliable information from, rather than the non scientific crap spouted by poorly informed protestors.

  4. Oooo the anti mob don’t like the taste of their own medicine it seems. There are ‘secretive’ meetings held by them constantly.
    Now that we have triggered Brexit and with Trumps stance on the green brigade I see a bright future ahead for the capitalists.

    • This is not about capitalism. It is about opposition to fracking.
      How ever, looking at market conditions the economics of shale when compared to conventional supplies and renewables don’t stand up. Despite the actions of Trump his plans may be thwarted by economics. Investors are divesting from fossil fuels and conventional and renewables are cheaper.

  5. I would have thought an industry conference has a clue in the name. I have yet to organise an industry conference that is open to one and all-couldn’t afford the biscuits. Equally, press invitations were always selected and not general. Companies have budgets to honour and expected to do so by shareholders, or owners.

  6. Overview of the Event

    “A landmark government ruling has approved plans for horizontal drilling for onshore shale gas to take place in the UK. The legal bill for the County Council has been reported in excess of £300,000 with councillors critical of the government decision to uphold the industry appeal, saying it over-ruled local democracy, having previously refused permission for extraction.

    Trillions of cubic feet of shale gas are thought to be recoverable beneath parts of the UK and more than 200 onshore exploration licences have been awarded. What do councils need to have in place to meet this potential demand and how they can work with all stakeholders to endure the best decisions are reached for their communities? While local authorities need to adhere to central government’s decision to produce more energy in the UK their actions are being impatiently monitored by community groups and legal teams. The importance of planning permissions and outcomes has increased pressure that all considerations are fully investigated – whether it be environmentally, legally, economically or politically.

    Supporters of onshore shale gas argue that industry activity will bring energy security, jobs and cash for the economy. Opponents fear fracking may cause earth tremors and pollution for mainly rural areas of the UK. How can all stakeholders be actively engaged from the start of an application process through to the practicalities of an active site? What can academics and community groups do to enhance the work that is taking place surrounding peripheral issues such as cleaning fracking water, noise pollution, traffic management and future legal disputes?”

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