A report that helped prompt prominent doctors to call for fracking to be banned on medical grounds has been found to have been written in part by an anti-fracking campaigner with links to Friends of the Earth.
The “expert” report was published by health charity Medact, who claimed to have examined fracking “through a comprehensive public health lens” and found that shale gas extraction could increase “risks of cancer, respiratory disease and birth defects,” the Times has reported.
The Medact report prompted a number of prominent doctors, including Dr Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Helen Gordon, chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and Dr Sheila Adam, former deputy chief medical officer, to write to the British Medical Journal calling for fracking to be banned “on public health and ecological grounds”. The BMJ published their letter yesterday.
Ken Cronin, chief executive of fracking trade body UK Onshore Oil & Gas, has written to the BMJ criticising the Medact report saying “Far from being factual, the report’s claims appear to reflect the authors’ opinions.”
Mr Cronin may have been more accurate than even he realised. It has since transpired that the Medact report was in part written by Mike Hill, a candidate in the upcoming general election standing on an anti-fracking platform in his home constituency of Fylde, Lancashire, where shale gas exploration company Cuadrilla has found 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Hill is also a member of anti-fracking group Defend Lytham, and has previously written reports on the subject for Friends of the Earth.
His election campaign website lists a number of “fracts” on fracking, including claims that it will “destroy the value of your property” and lead to birth defects in newborns. The latter claim is repeated on his personal website, shalegasoffice.com, where he prominently displays a warning that “New studies from universities in the U.S. have concluded that living within 10 miles of a fracking well damages the health of unborn infants,” without offering any reference for that claim.
The Medact report, Health and Fracking, describes Hill as merely the author of “numerous briefing notes and papers on fracking”, and mentions that he contributed to three of the six chapters in the report.
Mr Hill has a more lofty opinion of himself; he has claimed on numerous occasions to be an “expert adviser” to the EU, to the Royal Society, and to government. Blogger Guido Fawkes has uncovered at least four instances of Hill claiming to be an expert adviser, including one tweet reading “I am an engineer in the industry published in the Lancet, advised UK Gov, the RS and the EU,” and another in which he claimed to have “advised DECC.”
Hill also told the audience to a debate at the University of Canterbury that he was an “expert adviser to the EU Commission on shale gas”, and on another occasion told a Ryedale District Council meeting “I am an EU Adviser.”
Following the Unversity of Canterbury debate, the Canterbury Times contacted the EU Commission for confirmation that Mr Hill was an adviser. The reply was unequivocal: “Mr Hill cannot speak in the name of the commission,” a spokesman said. “He is an active expert on shale gas, and a member of a Technical Working Group working on the review of EU rules on the management of extractive waste, but as a representative of the civil society. He is not currently advising the Commission per se, he is representing stakeholders’ views in this Technical Working Group managed by the Commission.”
The spokesman added that Mr Hill is not an official EU advisor and not entitled to use such a title. Likewise, a letter seen by Guido confirmed that “Mr Hill is not an advisor to DECC,” whilst it transpired that he has merely made a submission to the Royal Society.
Ironically considering his trumped up anti-fracking credentials, Mr Hill was also found by Guido to have once applied to Cuadrilla for a job, writing “I have never been opposed to fracking. Just to no fracking regulation.
“I am at a crossroad point in this whole “game”. […] I have good contacts in LCC, HSE, EA and DECC. […] Just being anti-fracking is nonsense to me and always has been. It’s purely a reaction and not a positive one. I am up to the eyeballs with it.”
Dr David McCoy, director of Medact and former director of public health in Hammersmith & Fulham, said he had not realised that Mr Hill was standing as an anti-fracking candidate.