INEOS, the UK’s leading fracking company, has been accused by Greenpeace and others of using threats to bully landowners into giving it access to conduct exploratory work. The National Trust is amongst those who refused access and received legal threats as a result.
Emails obtained by Greenpeace’s Energy desk under freedom of information legislation also reveal that the British Geological Survey (BGS) wrote to INEOS in September last year asking the company to investigate allegations of ‘bullying’ landowners. The BGS - which is responsible for mapping the UK’s oil and gas reserves - told INEOS to stop using its name when speaking to landowners, with immediate effect, and said that the allegations were a risk to its reputation.
In other emails seen by Greenpeace the BGS asks INEOS about allegations that the firm made legal threats against landowners and - in particular - that it used the BGS name, referencing the public body’s powers to override objections under the Geological Survey Act.
In an email to then INEOS director Patrick Erwin, the BGS said: “There have been allegations of the BGS name and the Geological Survey Act being used to bully land owners into giving access to their land. The Geological Survey Act is not applicable to this activity.” The email also expressed concern that INEOS had referred to an official seismic survey - the National Geophysical Survey - in its communications with landowners, potentially giving the impression that INEOS’ private testing was part of an official survey.
In its response to the BGS, INEOS director Patrick Erwin said that the consultants it had hired to negotiate with local landowners, Fisher German Priestner (FGP), ‘acted appropriately’. INEOS said “We believe there has been no bullying of any kind.”
However, one landowner which is now known to have received legal threats is the National Trust, which had refused permission to explore for gas on its land at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. Hannah Martin, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "Landowners, local communities and the UK public are tired of being overpowered on the issue of fracking. It is particularly concerning that INEOS appears to be using heavy handed tactics, since they were the biggest winner from the latest licensing round for fracking exploration, with 21 blocks of land across the UK. The government needs to make sure the fracking industry isn't operating without impunity (sic) and should be supporting clean energy technologies."