So who exactly is Backing Fracking – unmasking the astro-turfers

Given what I read in their carefully crafted press releases and on their social media sites, it seems that the astroturfing group which calls itself “Backing Fracking” would have you believe that they are made up of ordinary “residents” who are nothing to do with “the industry and businesses on one side, and anti-fracking campaigners on the other.” People who Backing Fracking describes on his Facebook page as ” ordinary people who want good jobs and better life chances”.

Here’s how Ellie Rylands describes their plight

22 year old Ellie Rylands, one of the organisers, says it’s time that people saw shale gas enjoys support not just from businesses, but also from ordinary members of the community: Until now, whenever shale gas has been discussed, all we’ve heard are the opinions of the industry and businesses on one side, and anti-fracking campaigners on the other.  But there are lots of people in the middle that believe shale gas can be extracted safely in this country, and can see how it could create a massive jobs boost for the area, especially for young people like me emerging from college and university.

Did Ellie mention that her Linked In profile shows that she was actually employed by Cuadrilla and Centrica last year?
Ellie Rylands linked in

So Ellie is clearly just a “resident”  in the middle of this bewildering battle and not part of what she, herself, describes as “the industry and businesses on one side“. Or maybe not. By the way if anyone isn’t sure about the link between the North West Energy Task Force and Cuadrilla, Ellie makes it quite explicit there. She is one link between NWETF, Cuadrilla and Backing Fracking.

[Update 2017 – It seems that Ellie’s “massive jobs boost” has worked – well at least for her – according to her Linked In profile she is now employed full time by Cuadrilla


It just goes to show what can be achieved in the wonderful world of shale gas extraction without organising pro-fracking demonstrations or administrating Facebook astroturf pages doesn’t it?]

astroturfAnyway – we already know from their last outing that Backing Fracking’s most vocal supporters and spokespeople are overwhelmingly made up of business people who stand to gain financially if fracking goes ahead.  Quotes were given to the media last time they appeared at Blackpool Football Club by Phil Wilson of Tutis Concepts, James Mansell of Clear Solutions International Ltd from Shropshire and Tim Freshney of WJF Technical Support. All business directors whose business either already get business from Cuadrilla or might presumably expect to if fracking goes ahead.

But still Backing Fracking claims to represent ordinary “residents“, and not those with vested interests. This is how they describe themselves on their Facebook page.

How does this claim stack up in reality?

Well, I am fortunate enough that local people share information with me, and clearly not everyone they think is “backing fracking” actually is.

I was amused to learn that a schoolboy error in a recent mailshot, headed “It’s now or never!” (yes it is by the way LOL) and begging 131 supporters to attend their rally at Blackpool Football Club on 9th , meant that they put all of the email addresses in the “CC” field and not the “BC” field. That really was rather amateur of them, and I imagine some of the addressees may have been none too pleased about it. It’s also a bit embarrassing for a group which seems to have a lot of security company directors as its leaders and spokesmen to have proved so dilatory in their handling of such sensitive information isn’t it?

As a result the addresses were all available to everyone who received the email. From there it wasn’t hard to identify many of those on the list and the results are very interesting.


Working with Preston New Road Action Group, we were able to identify 77 of the 131 from their email addresses using a bit of Google sleuthing where necessary. I won’t identify any individuals by name here, but we have separated people into categories as best as we could.

      • PR Pros – we identified 4 people who work in PR for companies like Cuadrilla, PPS, and 2 other PR companies
      • North West Energy Task Force/ NW Lancs Chamber of Commerce – we identified 10 who were either NWETF panellists or NWLCoC officers. (We already know that NWETF has its admin and communications provided by Westbourne Communications, and the NW Lancs CoC and Cuadrilla have been hand in glove for some time now)
      • NWETF advocates – we identified 8 emails belonging to people who appear to work for companies that allow themselves to be listed as NWETF “advocates” – some of the 2nd category, above,  also intersect with this group of course.

At this point we invite you to pause and to consider just what right this group has to claim that it is made up of ordinary “residents” and not Ellie’s “industry and businesses on one side“.

      • Other Businesses – we identified 27 individuals who we believe work for other businesses that could benefit from shale gas being allowed in the UK – 14 of these seem to work for just 3 companies. (Clear Solutions International, UB Services and Inspired Energy)
      • Public People – we identified 9 people who are in public positions like being executives at local colleges, local councillors, officers at Lancashire sports clubs, or who run organisations that have received funding from Cuadrilla. Not exactly Ellie’s “people in the middle”.

Maybe pause again for a bit more reflection on those claims of Ellie’s here?

    • Students – We identified a group of 9 people including Ellie Rylands (see above) who all seem to have a connection with Geophysics or Geology courses at the same University in Yorkshire. We also identified one individual who we believe to be one of Ellie’s relatives who we have added into this section.
    • Old Friends – We identified 10 individuals (from around the UK and further afield) who are notable fracktivists on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Between them these people provide most of the content for the Backing Fracking and FORGE Facebook pages and many other pro-fracking social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.
    • Unknowns – there were just 54 of the 131 email addresses (41%)  that did not lend themselves readily to identification  although we are still working on them. Some of them may eventually be slotted into the categories above, and we think we’ve recognised a handful as people we know to be opposed to fracking – one of whom was kind enough to furnish us with the list we are now analysing.

This means that nearly two thirds of those on the Backing Fracking mailing list can hardly be reasonably described as what their Facebook page calls “residents” and Ellie calls “people in the middle“. (We are ALL residents somewhere of course, but their inference is clear.)

If Backing Fracking think that our analysis above is in any way  inaccurate we’d be happy to sit down with Rob Peters and go through the list with him. If he has any corrections for us we’ll then update this page accordingly.

Given that their rally at Blackpool Football Club today, February 9th, has only received a passing mention in one local newspaper

and it has not been mentioned on any of their social media sites, which we do monitor carefully,  I think it is fair to assume that anyone attending is doing so as a result of their “It’s now or never” email sent last week to the email list we are discussing here.

Backing Fracking themselves confirmed this last night, when they tweeted that they hadn’t invited  “people from all over the UK” (although we know from their emails that that was in fact a blatant lie, as that is precisely what they did in two emails headed “Plans for Tuesday 9th February 2016” and “It’s now or never!”)


Frankly I think it is shameful that Backing Fracking should try to pull the wool over the the media’s eyes like this. It may of course be that they are honest today and admit that they are really a group of businessmen with vested interests, a gaggle of geology students, a motley crew of drilling operatives, security guard wannabes and a few obsessive old age pensioners with too much time on their hands.

If not then I sincerely hope that the Inspector won’t have been taken in by any claimed show of “support” from “residents” or “people in the middle” on Seasiders Way. We opponents of fracking certainly aren’t!

Their attempts to construct a bit of local support to get Cuadrilla that elusive “social licence to operate” don’t seem to be working very well do they? In the words of Backing Fracking on his own Facebook Page on Monday night “What a rotten bunch…”



Yesterday Backing Fracking’s main media spokesman was a company director called Chris Evans who runs a company called Cee Cee Tv Systems from his home near St Annes.

Chris’s Linked In profile shows

chris evans

Would it be too much of a stretch of the imagination to wonder whether Mr Evans can see any of the 22 jobs promised in Arup’s environmental statement coming the way of his “One Stop Full Security Solution“, now that Cuadrilla appear to have disavowed Tutis Concepts , whose director spoke out for Backing Fracking in December.

When asked about any connection between Cuadrilla and Tutis Concepts on the Victoria Derbyshire show yesterday, Cuadrilla were quick to claim that it “no longer works with the security company mentioned in that film” . There’s nothing like loyalty  is there? If anyone spots any Tutis Concepts Security guards at BFC this month do let us know! We were under the impression that they were  Cuadrilla’s preferred supplier under their cosy arrangement with the North West Chamber of Commerce until we heard that.

Assuming Cuadrilla were being totally straightforward with Victoria Derbyshire, I wonder what soured their relationship?


Predictably (and they are so predictable) Backing Fracking were not very happy to learn that they had a mole, and even less happy to have their membership analysed as above. As a result whoever runs the Backing Fracking Facebook page has decided that attack is the best form of defence and is devoting far to much time for the good of  his or her own mental health on launching attacks on Refracktion and me personally. Take a look – it’s great fun 🙂 Here is today’s instalment

What is so hilarious about this is that you could not ask for a clearer illustration of the fact that whatever shill is behind this account has no local connection or understanding of local history. He clearly doesn’t realise that Lytham Quays is actually visible from my front bedroom, and he has no idea what happened back in 2005 when more than 90% of those voting in a referendum organised by the Lytham St Annes Express opposed the scheme (which was why I complained about the ludicrous quote made by Kensington developments in the Telegraph article).

Trying to bluster his way out of his or her idiocy on Twitter this afternoon we have seen Backing Fracking

  • claim that a house in Lytham is not in Lytham
  • insinuate that the LSE allowed their poll to be manipulated
  • claim that the population of Lytham actually lives in St Annes on Sea

it is hard to see how this person could demonstrate a greater disconnection with local residents if he or she deliberately set out to do it!

QED I think 🙂

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