Environmental campaigners have hit out at the government after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed a string of emails between government officials and leaders from the shale gas industry, amid widespread protests to fracking.
The emails, which were revealed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), show correspondence between the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil and the UK Onshore Operators’ Group (UKOOG), Centrica and IGas.
Some reveal that government officials shared prepared statements with the industry, advising on “lines to take” prior to the publication of a review by Public Health England on the possible chemical effects of radioactive and chemical pollutants. One such line said, “We are confident that there is robust and appropriate regulation in the UK to ensure safe operations that minimise impacts to human health.”
Officials also hosted dinners, with “further discussion over post-dinner drinks”.
The emails were revealed the same week that David Cameron said the UK was “going all out” for shale gas, announcing plans to allow councils to retain 100% of the business rates from fracking sites, measures which were labelled as “bribes”.
Lawrence Carter, energy campaigner at Greenpeace said, “DECC has again been revealed to be acting as an arm of the gas industry. The government are supposed to represent the interests of the public when they deal with these companies, but the evidence is piling up that they’re all in it together.”
Green party MP Caroline Lucas said, “This is yet more evidence of the creepily cosy relationship between DECC and big energy. Apparently it’s not enough to give fracking companies generous tax breaks, the government also has to help them with their PR.
“Instead of cheerleading for fracking, the government should be working with community and renewable energy to move us towards a low carbon future.”
A spokesperson for DECC said, “It is right and proper that DECC facilitates discussions between companies, regulators and other interested parties as part of this.
“The government believes that shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs. We are encouraging safe and environmentally sound exploration to determine this potential.”