Cuadrilla-backed Lancashire business lobby largely supported by companies outside county
An organisation set up to argue the business case for fracking in Lancashire is largely backed by businesses from outside the county, according to Greenpeace analysis.
Of the 343 small and medium sized enterprises (SME) that support the Cuadrilla-funded North West Energy Task Force, less than half, 149, are based in Lancashire. They represent 0.3% of VAT registered Lancashire businesses.
In Fylde, the district in which Cuadrilla is planning to drill for shale gas, just 14 businesses back the task force.
The various businesses signed up as supporters of the task force include: a music shop in Manchester, a residential home in Yorkshire, Morecambe and Lonsdale Conservative Association, London-based industry trade body Oil & Gas UK and several sports equipment shops.
Greenpeace analysed SME supporter data available for download on the task force’s website, mapping the location of supporters against county and district boundaries.
The group, set up by fracking firm Cuadrilla and its investment partner Centrica, is one of the most vocal advocates of fracking in Lancashire. Its website explains that the group’s mission is to understand the benefits of “the responsible extraction of natural gas from Lancashire’s shale”.
It also states that its “activities and views are independent of our financial supporters”.
These activities have included setting up a supply chain conference in Blackpool, attended by the then energy minister, Michael Fallon.
And also coordinating a recent joint letter from businesses to Lancashire County Council, urging it to approve Cuadrilla’s planning applications.
The North West Energy Task Force press released this letter under the headline “Lancashire business leaders to local council: ‘Give shale a chance.’”
But the list of businesses signed up to the letter includes an angling resort based in North Wales and a Liverpool-based events company that organises conferences for the shale gas industry.
Another signatory to the letter was a Derbyshire based company called PR Marriott Drilling Group, which Cuadrilla has previously identified as its main contractor for drilling wells. PR Marriott claims to be “the largest onshore deep drilling company based in the United Kingdom”.
North West Energy Task Force told the Independent: “We argue for the responsible development of shale gas because we believe it will benefit the North-west region. We think the positive impacts will be felt far and wide, including by B&B owners in Blackpool, fertiliser producers in Cheshire and professional service companies in Manchester.
“NGOs campaigning against shale encourage people to complain about the North-west’s shale projects from as far afield as Canada and the US so their complaint smacks of hypocrisy.”