Fracking Scare Stories Condemned By UK Watchdog

  • Date: 26/09/16
  • Ben Webster, The Times

A green campaign group made a series of misleading claims about the health and environmental impacts of fracking, according to a damning draft ruling by the advertising watchdog. Friends of the Earth (FoE) failed to substantiate claims that fracking could cause cancer, contaminate water supplies, increase asthma rates and send house prices plummeting, the Advertising Standards Authority says.

Scientists accused the group of scaremongering after it made the claims in thousands of copies of a leaflet asking for donations to help stop fracking. Cuadrilla, which wants to frack in Lancashire, and the Reverend Michael Roberts, a retired vicar, complained to the ASA about the leaflet last year.

The ASA produced its draft ruling in July but has been forced to delay sending it to its council for approval because FoE has repeatedly requested more time to challenge its findings.

The draft upholds the complaints against FoE on all four grounds, finding in each case that the group had breached the ASA’s code by making misleading statements that it had failed to substantiate.

The draft rejects FoE’s attempt to use evidence from the US to justify its claims about the threat to health and water supplies. It notes that there are differences between the way fracking is regulated in the US and UK, with the Environment Agency imposing strict controls here on chemicals used and the protection of water supplies.

On the claims about asthma, the advertising authority found that FoE had based them on a report from the US that had not found a causal relationship between the disease and fracking.

On house prices, the draft criticises FoE for using an “anecdotal quote” from a newspaper article to help justify its claim that prices would plummet.

The draft concludes: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd not to make claims about the likely effects of fracking on the health of local populations, drinking water, or property prices in the absence of adequate evidence.”

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