New data has revealed that Lancashire's pension fund invests £187m in fracking companies, leading anti-fracking campaigners to call for divestment given vociferous local opposition to the practice.
Despite protesters having maintained a round-the-clock vigil on the roadside at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas exploration site near Blackpool for two years, the data has revealed that Lancashire's pension fund invests 2.62% of its pensions in companies that rely on fracking according to figures released by 350.org, Platform, and Friends of the Earth.
Across the UK, council pensions invest over £9 billion of pensions into fracking companies despite a group of independent professionals pointing to "convincing evidence that fracking is a danger to the health and well-being of people living near well sites," in a letter to Conservative MP, Sarah Wollaston.
Due to Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, having accepted a Cuadrilla appeal on a decision not to allow fracking in Lancashire, drilling for gas is set to start for the first time in seven years in the UK in spite of fierce local opposition and experts citing "several studies pointing to an increase in premature births, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, heart attacks, migraines, childhood asthma and a variety of other lung, and skin diseases," near well sites.
Despite many councils having voted against fracking, council-run funds remain invested in the industry in companies such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips, who are fracking in places like Argentina, Canada, and Australia.
"I have previously asked at meetings whether the fund invests in fracking companies and was told that it does not," said Councillor Gina Dowding, member of the Lancashire County Pension Fund committee. "I am appalled to discover that Lancashire Pension Fund invest almost £187 million in companies that frack via our indirect investments.
"These companies may not include the likes of Cuadrilla but instead international frackers like BP, who have extensive operations in places like Argentina. We know that fracking devastates communities, landscape, and the climate. Our councils funds should not support the global fracking industry."
Sakina Sheikh, Divestment Campaigner with Platform, added: “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.”
In a joint statement, Lancashire County Council and the Local Pensions Partnership said: “The Local Pensions Partnership manages the authority's pension fund along with those of a number of other organisations. Decisions about investments are therefore not made by Lancashire County Council.
"The Pension Fund’s assets are invested in line with responsible investment policies which seek to ensure a wide range of risk are considered and this includes the risks of climate change," it added, claiming that the figures quoted above are not recognised.
"Lancashire County Pension Fund maintains a diversified portfolio which includes exposures to a wide range of sectors including the energy sector where the fund has been actively investing in a range of renewable assets. As of June 30th 2018, the fund holds approximately £346m in green energy investments.”