Environment Agency investing pension fund in industries it regulates – INVESTMENTS INCLUDE FRACKING

Environment Agency investing pension fund in industries it regulates is ‘clear conflict of interest’

Green watchdog accused over ‘shocking’ investment portfolio that includes fracking

Sunday 28 December 2014

The Environment Agency (EA) has been accused of having a “clear conflict of interest” after an Independent on Sundayinvestigation found the UK regulator’s pension fund invests millions in controversial industries which it then regulates. In the UK the EA’s pension fund – worth a huge £2.3bn – invests in companies investing in fracking, incineration and nuclear power, all of which the Agency is involved in regulating.

Globally, the fund also invests millions in chemical and mining companies, including diamond mining; tobacco and alcohol companies; arms manufacturers; a gambling company, as well as Starbucks which has been repeatedly accused of tax avoidance.

The pension details are contained in a response to a Freedom of Information request from the EA, which lists the companies it had a stake in as of March this year, its latest available audited information. And its investments are in marked contrast to the Agency’s public image of being a leading “responsible” investor that integrates “environmental, social and governance considerations into all decision-making.” The Agency champions its commitment that by 2015 “25 per cent of the fund will be invested in the sustainable and green economy”.

Despite these bold claims, the list reveals that the EA, which was heavily criticised last year for its response to flooding, holds £50m direct investments in oil and gas companies such as Shell, BP and BG Group, as well as millions more in indirect oil and gas funds. This year the EA commissioned a report on the risk to its fossil fuel investments becoming “stranded assets” but was advised against disinvesting. “Reducing investment exposure to the fossil industry does not precipitate a reduced prevalence of that industry,” argued its consultants.

But green campaigners disagree. Fossil fuels are already “a risky investment and certainly will be into the future. The really ‘responsible’ investor is the one who recognises that now before it’s too late,” argues Charlie Kronick, energy markets adviser to Greenpeace UK.

Fracking firm, Cuadrilla, has been the subject of fierce protests in Lancashire and West SussexFracking firm, Cuadrilla, has been the subject of fierce protests in Lancashire and West Sussex (Getty)

It is with issues such as fracking, incineration and nuclear that the EA is probably at its most vulnerable. Its investments could potentially open it up to legal challenges if the it were to grant permits to companies in which its pension pot has a financial interest.

The fund is investing in two companies financially intertwined with fracking giant Cuadrilla, the company that has been the subject of fierce protests in Lancashire and West Sussex. The first is Centrica, which is investing £60m in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire operations and the second is Riverstone Energy, which owns 44 per cent of Cuadrilla.

The Cuadrilla relationship is further complicated as Lord Browne of Madingley, who sits on Cuadrilla and Riverstone’s board, has been accused of having privileged access to Lord Chris Smith, the head of the EA. Browne, a former BP boss, met Smith on numerous occasions when Cuadrilla was trying to get a permit to frack. The minutes of one telephone meeting between Browne, Smith and other government ministers reveal that the EA offered to “shorten the consultation process prior to determining permits”, although this was rejected by Cuadrilla, which was worried about legal action.

The EA is also investing in Barclays, the bank behind Third Energy’s attempts to frack and conventionally drill the Ryedale Valley in North Yorkshire, and French company Total, which announced plans to invest $50m (£32m) in licences backed by fracking companies IGas, Dart Energy and partner Egdon Resources earlier this year.

The revelations come after the Chancellor, George Osborne, promised millions of pounds in the Autumn Statement to show a sceptical public the “robustness of the existing regulatory regime” on fracking.

Anti-fracking groups are outraged: “It is astonishing to discover that the government body that makes decisions on environmental permits for fracking companies is investing so heavily in the same companies that are applying for these permits,” argues Chris Redston of Frack Free Ryedale. “This appears to be the very definition of a conflict of interest.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas, said: “News that the Environment Agency has investments in some of the very industries it is paid to regulate is deeply shocking. There is a clear conflict here, which undermines the credibility of the Environment Agency and calls into question its independence and authority.”

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4 Responses to “Environment Agency investing pension fund in industries it regulates – INVESTMENTS INCLUDE FRACKING”

  1. RabbiT says:

    Bob De Niro and Joe Pesci wouldn’t be looking after the Pension Fund’s “gambling company” interests by any chance?

  2. sovereigntea says:

    Chris Smith is a member of the British American Project (BAP)

    Let’s start with the easiest question: what do George Robertson, Chris Smith and Marjorie ‘Mo’ Mowlam have in common? They are, of course, all strong Tony Blair supporters in the new Labour Cabinet. And what about Peter Mandelson and Elizabeth Symons? Not yet quite Cabinet members, but both are key figures in the ‘modernising project’ in Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government: Mandelson as Minister without Portfolio having a roving brief to monitor, coordinate and brief the press on all areas of government activity and Symons, the former leader of the union for top civil servants, the First Division Association, is the Foreign Office Minister in the House of Lords.

    Symons shares her unelected status with two other key figures in the new Blair administration, Jonathan Powell and Michael Barber. Powell, a former British diplomat in Washington, is now Blair’s chief of staff at 10 Downing Street and Barber is special adviser to Education Secretary David Blunkett. And what do these two and the four ministers in the new government share with Ms Symons? They are all members of the British American Project for the Successor Generation (BAP for short) – an elite transatlantic network launched in 1985 with $425,000 from a Philadelphia-based trust with a long record in the US of supporting right-wing causes.

    Its membership reaches beyond formal politics to include rising figures in finance, industry, academia, the military and the civil service. Media members include Economist political editor David Lipsey, Independent economics editor Diane Coyle, Times Educational Supplement editor Caroline St John-Brooks and BBC journalists Jeremy Paxman, Isabel Hilton, Trevor Phillips and James Naughtie.

    http://powerbase.info/index.php/British_American_Project
    Smith – GM crops supporter

    Always remember that when a political actor fails to live up to the expectations of the public it is likely that someone has some dirt on them to assist them in making the “right decisions”.

    Lord Chris Smith is associated with Islington which in turn is associated with chlid abuse on an industrial scale.

    The Independent reports

    When the children’s harrowing stories first appeared, Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council, sought refuge in killing the messenger. The London Evening Standard’s month-long investigation was clearly sourced by scores of staff, children, police officers and documents. But because the newspaper is considered in right-on N1 to be “right wing”, Hodge airily dismissed it as “politically motivated … a sensationalist bit of gutter journalism”. A month later she took up a top City job.

    This typified Islington’s Stalinist reluctance to study the facts when the facts do not fit the theory. If gays are oppressed, then all gay men are good, was its simplistic credo. Men who hurt boys are not “gay” – they are paedophiles. But intelligent analysis was impossible in Islington, where paedophiles cynically exploited the gay rights banner and those who suspected this were branded as reactionary.

    Such mindless name-calling paralysed many. I find it terrifying that the entire Islington scandal would never have been exposed without the courage of, initially, just one social worker. She contacted me in despair after being investigated as “anti-equal opportunities” for ringing alarm bells about a gay children’s home worker (a traumatised boy later confirmed months of buggery). We cajoled other colleagues into secret meetings and confiding. Two had already been sacked after raising concerns, and one received death threats. I took some staff to Scotland Yard, although it was off their patch: publish, was the advice.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/witness-stalinist-reluctance-to-study-the-facts-1621767.html

  3. sovereigntea says:

    Why The Sun should be boycotted !

    Murdoch, Rothschild, Dick Cheney, Browne – the Frackers Club

    If any one has the time it would be useful to look into how the same companies and group of people who seek to despoil and exploit our nation via fracking are also behind much of what is called renewable energy.

    Lord Browne is a director of Pattern Energy Group Inc

    http://www.riverstonerel.com/the-board/lord-browne-of-madingley/

    Pattern Energy is committed to bringing renewable power forward ». A Leading … Pattern Energy is a leading independent power company.

    A Leading Independent
    Power Company

    Pattern Energy is a leading independent power company. We own and operate twelve wind power projects in the United States, Canada and Chile with a total owned capacity of 1,636 MW. These projects generate stable long-term cash flows

    Lord Browne was appointed a trustee of the Tate Gallery in August 2007 and chairman of the trustees in January 2009.
    Tate Trustees Lord Browne (Chair), … Elisabeth Murdoch ( Red Ruperts Daughter)

    Local anti-fracking campaigners have hit out at a decision by The Sun … Rupert Murdoch – has came out on the side of the fracking industry.

    2010
    “I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

    Rupert Murdoch is the founder, Chairman of the Board, and CEO of News Corporation, one of the world’s largest diversified media companies. News Corporation’s holdings include Fox Entertainment, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, HarperCollins and significant other media assets on six continents.

    Other members of Genie’s Strategic Advisory Board are:
    Alan K. Burnham, PhD – Chief Technology Officer, American Shale Oil, LLC.; Research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 30 years;

    Dick Cheney – 46th Vice President of the United States. Former President and CEO of Halliburton Company, and U.S. Secretary of Defense;

    At the end of 2011, the chairman of the drilling company Cuadrilla, Lord Browne, arranged a series of meetings about fracking with senior ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The former chief executive of BP – who holds a formal advisory role in the Cabinet Office – is understood to have picked up the phone at his Chelsea home and called the then Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, to raise the matter.

    Spinwatch claims the Cabinet Office may have “deliberately misrepresented” the nature of commercial lobbying – and that if the Government wanted evidence of the reality of lobbying, they need only look at the Leveson Inquiry and the covert relationship between News International’s lobbyist Fred Michel and Adam Smith, the special adviser to Jeremy Hunt while he was Culture Secretary and overseeing Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB bid.

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