*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Priest in wrangle over anti-fracking campaign leaflet

09 January 2015

demotix

Saying no: a Green Party protester at the iGas site on the Wirrall

Saying no: a Green Party protester at the iGas site on the Wirrall

A RETIRED vicar is celebrating the withdrawal of an anti-fracking leaflet, after he complained about it to the Advertising Standards Authority.

The priest, the Revd Michael Roberts, who holds a geology degree from Oxford (Letters, 12 December), was "horrified" by what he deemed to be "sheer inaccuracies" in a leaflet distributed last year by Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF): "Shale Gas: The Facts". In his complaint, filed in August, he warned that many of the points were "either irrelevant, incorrect, or bad science", and he accused the group of "scaremongering".

The leaflet failed, he said, to take into account developments in fracking technology, the existence of an inspection regime and regulation, or the judgement of scientists at the Health Protection Agency. It used images, and described practices, in the United States that are not permitted in the UK.

The ASA confirmed on Wednesday that it had looked into the complaint, but that the leaflet had been withdrawn before it came to rule. On Wednesday, Mr Roberts said that "most" of the 13 points of his complaint had been accepted "immediately" by the Authority.

A RAFF spokesperson said on Wednesday that the newsletter had been replaced by a new edition "in light of significant emerging evidence to reinforce that shale gas poses dangers to communities", and not as a result of the complaint. The statement also said that the ASA had admitted that the copy in the newsletter "came down to a matter of semantics and interpretation and not because the points raised were untrue". Mr Roberts disputes this.

Although the ASA no longer includes materials such as the leaflet in its remit, Mr Roberts has pledged to continue to challenge inaccurate information about fracking.

"People don't understand the issues; so they are fearful of what could happen," he said. "People who scaremonger about it . . . are building on those fears."

Having always been "pretty green", he was initially wary of fracking. He has previously criticised in a book the "Browns" who do not accept climate change. But he now believes that fracking is "technically as safe as anything else", and that "shale gas is the best transition fuel from our present situation to the future". Disinvestment from fossil fuels by the Church of England would be, he argues, "the silliest thing it could do".

New fracking centre. The University of Chester, an Anglican foundation, is to be home to a college for fracking. The National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, which will train onshore oil and gas specialists, will be headquartered in Blackpool and linked to colleges in Chester, Redcar, Cleveland, Glasgow, and Portsmouth. The Government is providing £750,000 of development funding, to be matched by industry bodies and education providers.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman from Operation Noah said that diverting research and funding towards fracking was "a dangerous step in the wrong direction. As an Anglican foundation, the University of Chester should seek to ensure the protection of God's creation by using its resources to support the development of renewable energies and other clean technologies."

Announcing the move in November, the Business and Enterprise Minister, Matthew Hancock, said: "I am not prepared to pass up a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity. . . Imagine if we had passed up a similar opportunity to go into the North Sea some 50 years ago. What if we'd let that oil and gas stay in the ground? What if we'd said it was too difficult or too controversial?"

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)