I don’t want to talk about it…
Continuing on from our post “There are more questions than answers” we have now had a response to the questions we asked the staff at Lexington Communications who man the “Cuadrilla Information line”.
Readers may recall that we had 3 questions which their staff were struggling to answer:
1. What was the planned surface area of the site at Preston New Road.
This question was prompted by the apparent discrepancy between statements made by Mr Egan last week in the Guardian and repeated this week in the Blackpool Gazette that it will be “about the size of a rugby pitch“. A rugby pitch is 1.08 hectares in size whilst they would appear to have planning permission for a 2.8 hectare site – that’s nearly 3 times as big as what they are claiming. We think it looks as though Mr Egan is deliberately misleading the public here but wanted to give him the opportunity to explain in case there was a good reason for the discrepancy.
2. What is the number of jobs (FTE equivalents) that Cuadrilla genuinely expect will result from work at the site.
Mr Egan was quoted in the Guardian article as stating that “the work would involve dozens of people” and yet the documentation submitted by Arup, Cuadrilla’s consultants, is very clear that each of the two proposed exploration sites (PNR and Roseacre) would only generate 7 direct FTE equivalents, plus a further 4 indirect and supply chain jobs. The two sites might also generate between them a further 4 jobs in the associated monitoring activity. That’s rather more like a dozen per site than “dozens”, so we have to say again that we think it looks as though Mr Egan is deliberately misleading the public here but wanted to give him the opportunity to explain in case there was a good reason for the discrepancy
3. What exactly are Cuadrilla planning to drill this year?
In the Guardian article Mr Egan is reported to have claimed that “it will concentrate on drilling a pilot well 3,500 metres deep this year and two horizontal wells“. As far as we are aware their permission is specifically for 4 vertical wells with a single horizontal well off each vertical. As it sounds from this as though they plan to drill 2 horizontals off a single well we wanted to know if we had understood this correctly.
Now, none of those questions should be particularly challenging – The answers to the first two can be found in Cuadrilla’s own submissions to the planning inquiry at Blackpool Football Club in February, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect them to know what they plan to do this year, but their “Information Line” was unable to answer the questions and asked for more time to get back to me.
After five days I rang to remind them and was genuinely surprised to be told that they needed more time to check. It seemed pretty clear that they really didn’t want to have to answer those questions – presumably because the answers might call into question statements made by their CEO. We all know how embarrassing that might be as he had just been prancing around on his very high horse about misleading statements he claims were made by Friends of the Earth (having it seems conveniently forgotten about the ASA ruling made against Cuadrilla for the very same offence not too long ago.)
This morning it seems they have decided that they really can’t answer the questions and have come up with a ludicrous reason to try to justify their evasion. Here it is:
[Perhaps we’d better ignore the irony of the sentence in green ” 🌲 Consider the environment. Do you really need to print this email?” for the moment?]
So Cuadrilla “believes it was unreasonable of you to post the names of individuals answering our helpline on your Refracktion website and an abuse of the reasonable use of an enquiries helpline and on that basis we are no longer prepared to answer questions from you.“. Really?
I struggle to understand why naming individuals who freely identified themselves is any sort of problem. Stating “I spoke to Mr X at Company Y who said Z is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
The inescapable conclusion is that Cuadrilla’s “Community Information Line”is a sham. It is staffed by PR consultants who can’t answer questions and if your question is potentially embarrassing to them they will refuse to answer it (and any further questions from you).
If this is how Cuadrilla plans to fulfil its obligations to community interaction then they may as well give up pretending now.
If they refuse to answer questions because the answers may counter their PR spin then their pretence at being a good neighbour is exposed for the counterfeit that is clearly is.
Cuadrilla – if you want to have any chance of getting that social licence to operate that you want then you will have to up your game. You have plenty of room on those 3 rugby pitches to practice.
In the meantime if anybody else would like to ask the 3 questions again I’d be delighted to learn what answers they provide. They can’t refuse to answer everybody. Can they? Go on – give it a try – you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now I know they don’t want to talk to me, but there are still more questions to be answered. This afternoon I contacted Charlotte at Lexington Communications again with the following question
I do have a further question. I will ask it, record the fact that is has been asked and log your response or lack of it on the website. You may choose to ignore it on behalf of your client if you think that is a wise course of action.
Cuadrilla claimed to the local press (http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/video-anti-fracking-protesters-claim-thuggish-guards-almost-pushed-them-into-the-road-1-8325788) that
However, I was actually there and witnessed the events stood next to a group of policemen who clearly had no idea what was about to happen when Cuadrilla’s security staff began to move the fence.
Can I please ask you to confirm that Cuadrilla stand by their claim that the police “asked for the fencing” (to be moved).
I have requested confirmation from the officer in charge, so in the absence of any response, the truth should become evident before too long anyway
It will be interesting to see whether they really are an “information line” or just a PR front won’t it?