Environmental charity Friends of the Earth (FoE) has agreed to withdraw claims regarding dangers to human health made in an anti-fracking leaflet following consideration by the Advertising Standards Authority. No formal ruling was made.

Shale gas exploration company Cuadrilla had raised objections to the leaflet, called ‘Pat Saved Her Home from Fracking. You Can Save Yours too’, distributed to Lancashire residents in 2015. The FoE leaflet was deemed misleading in the following claims:

  • The fluid used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) contains chemicals dangerous to human health, and that the fluid would, as a natural consequence of the act of fracking, contaminate the drinking water of nearby communities because it remained underground;
  • The US fracking site referred to was responsible for the increase in asthma rates, and that the public would be at risk of equivalent increases in asthma rates by living or working near a fracking site in the UK;
  • There is an established risk of the chemicals concerned causing cancer and other conditions among the local population, when used in fracking in the UK;
  • Fracking will cause plummeting house prices.

FoE has agreed to withdraw all the claims and has agreed that “it will not repeat the claims, or claims which have the same meaning, in future”.

However, senior FOE campaigner, Donna Hume, said: “We continue to campaign against fracking, alongside local people, because the process of exploring for and extracting shale gas is inherently risky for the environment, this is why fracking is banned or put on hold in so many countries.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, said: “The opponents of onshore oil and gas development must withdraw their scaremongering rhetoric and argue on the basis of the facts, which quite clearly show that the risks associated with fracking can be mitigated by the strong regulation and world-renowned best practice that we benefit from in the UK.”

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, the company that recently secured approval to test frac an existing well at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, said the move was "an important moment in the debate about onshore oil and gas development in the UK." He said it "means that local people will be able to make their assessment based on facts and not wild claims about health impacts, chemicals and house prices from hydraulic fracturing.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency published findings in December (2016) which confirmed that hydraulic fracturing had an effect on water supplies (see EAEM coverage here).

Image: Anti-fracking protesters in Lancashire (FoE)