James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Commission’s fracking advisors controlled by lobbyists, claim NGOs

Anti-fracking protests in Berlin. Campaigners argue unconventional fossil fuels will increase global warming. [Robin Wood/Flickr]

Anti-fracking protests in Berlin. Campaigners argue unconventional fossil fuels will increase global warming. [Robin Wood/Flickr]

Environmental campaigners and the shale gas industry have clashed amid accusations that companies are controlling an influential European Commission group advising on fracking policy.

Friends of the Earth Europe walked out of the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction. The JRC is the Commission’s in-house science service. It is meant to objectively inform EU policymaking.

The network is tasked to assess on-going fracking projects and their safety, the NGO said Wednesday (15 April). But it was “in essence an in-house shale gas lobby on European Commission energy strategy”, and should be scrapped.

That was dismissed by Shale Gas Europe, the industry’s trade association, and the European Commission.

The Commission told EurActiv it regretted Friends of the Earth’s decision because “participation of the civil society in this network is essential to ensure a balanced exchange of views.”

A spokesman added, “But it has to be noted that this Network is aimed at being a technical network and is not aimed at providing advice for decision-making purposes or at promoting unconventional fossil fuels.”

Shale Gas Europe said, “It isn’t helpful for certain lobbyists such as Friends of the Earth to walk out of an important process only two months after the initial kick off meetings.”

“It’s a political statement rather than a genuine desire to solve Europe’s acute energy challenges.”

Investigation

Yesterday, Friends of the Earth Europe and anti-lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory published an investigation into the make-up of the group.

The network is composed of 74 members, 14 of whom work for the European Commission.

Of the 60 that do not;

  • More than 70% represent or have financial links to the fracking industry, while fewer than 10% represent civil society
  • Those in the top jobs – the five chairs of the body’s working groups – either work for the fracking industry, are from pro-fracking governments or industry-friendly bodies
  • Fracking industry giants such as Cuadrilla, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, and GDF Suez are all represented on the group

EU officials said that there were not five working group chairs, as the report said. There are only two chairs; one chair and vice chair for each of the two working groups.

An industry representative giving a presentation at the first meeting had been mistaken for a chair of a group, sources told EurActiv.

Officials said the industry was needed to get site-specific technical and environmental data.

There was an open call to which anyone interested in joining the network could apply, they said, and further applications were still welcome.

But Friends of the Earth Europe said the promotion and expansion of controversial fracking in Europe was the core aim of the advisory group.

Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, “While a ‘science and technology network’ on unconventional fossil fuels sounds objective, it’s a complete façade.

“The European Commission is giving the fracking industry all the seats at the top table and crowding out citizens and groups with legitimate concerns about this dirty industry.”

>>Read whole story on EurActiv

>>Read story in Der Tagesspiegel

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