Council criticised for pension investments in fracking

Demonstrators hold placards as they erected a seven meter high "fracking rig" calling for a ban on e

Demonstrators hold placards as they erected a seven meter high "fracking rig" calling for a ban on exploration and development of shale gas and coal bed methane in the UK, outside the Houses of Parliament, London. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Campaigners have criticised Norfolk County Council for investing workers' pensions into companies which frack.

Data released today (Monday) by Platform and Friends of the Earth found the council invested £55.6m into fracking companies, while across the country UK council pensions funds invested over £9bn in the firms.

But the groups claim public support for fracking is consistently low and are called on councils to divest.

A council spokesman said the total fund value was £3.6bn, so £55.6m was just 1.55pc of the total value.

Jamie Osborn, from Norwich who represents Norfolk Against Fracking, said: 'It's shocking to see Norfolk council investing pension funds into the fracking industry. Fracking threatens communities, destroys local landscapes, and fuels climate change across the globe. As this industry tries to get a foothold in the UK, its crucial that our councils take a clear stand against fracking and divest from the companies responsible.'

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Fracking involves drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixed is directed at rock to release the gas inside. It allows drilling firms to access hard to reach oil and gas.

But it has caused controversy over environmental concerns. Campaigners say the huge amount of water used, and the transportation of that, has substantial environmental costs. They also fear carcinogenic chemicals could be released and that the practice could cause small earth tremors.

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Sakina Sheikh, a divestment campaigner with Platform, said: 'The devastating fires and record temperatures this summer have brought the impacts of climate change home. Neither local communities or our climate can afford for the fracking industry to win. Our councils are providing everyday support to the frackers, it's time to stop. It's time to divest from fossil fuels.'

A county council spokesman said: 'The Norfolk Pension Fund invests in more than 1,000 companies around the world and they include energy and mining companies which may, in addition to their core businesses, have an involvement in fracking. Individual investment decisions are taken by professional, external fund managers, in accordance with the strategy set by the county council's pensions committee.'

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