Edelman's Ties to Fracking and Climate Denial Still Cause for Concern, New Petitions Show

Edelman PR’s credibility continues to wane as two separate petitions highlight the company’s ongoing support for the fossil fuel industry – in particular, its relationship as secretariat to the Task Force on Shale Gas.

Anti-fracking campaign group Talk Fracking have produced a statement and encouraged groups and individuals to pledge their support to stop the government listening to the Task Force, which is funded by Cuadrilla and other big companies in the oil and gas industry.

The open letter was drawn up in reaction to the publication of the Task Force’s second report and its stubborn refusal to answer the organisation’s letter, sent on 17th March, asking questions about the nature of the Task Force’s relationship with PR company Edelman, which used to be the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas.

Edelman is known for its controversial work with oil giants Shell and Chevron. And, until very recently, its clients also included the American Petroleum Institute (API) – the oil industry’s primary lobbying group.

Controlling the Debate

Talk Fracking’s letter argues that the UK Government should ignore the findings of the Task Force and should consider its reports nothing more than “untrustworthy propaganda”.

Talk Fracking claims that the recent report, published on 15th July, is simply “an attempt to reinforce the oil and gas industry’s long-running rhetoric that the damage done by fracking overseas can be mitigated here in the UK should we employ ‘gold standard regulations’ that will somehow make safe an inherently risky, dirty, dangerous practice.”

The Task Force for Shale Gas was established in September 2014. Lord Chris Smith, who was chair of the Environment Agency from 2008 to 2014, is the current chair of the Task Force.

Despite the Task Force’s latest report saying that fracking companies should disclose all chemicals used in the process, Joseph Corre, the founder of Talk Fracking, remains unconvinced.

When somebody says ‘Oh look here I am, I am going to be objective and I am going to say what’s fair’ you have got to remember they are funded by the oil and gas industry.”

All this token horse play around them admitting when chemicals are being used is nonsense. This is all part of controlling the debate… What they really should be talking about is: what are they going to do with that? What are they going to do with the wastewater? Where is it going to go? Where are they actually going to get the water to go ahead with fracking in the first place? So these are all things that the Task Force, if they were objective, would be looking at.”

Tobacco Tactics

Talk Fracking fears that “with Edelman behind the Task Force on Shale Gas, PR tactics developed in the sixties to dismiss smoking health concerns are now being used in relation to fracking.”

The PR firm has a long history of working with the tobacco industry. In the 1970s, it proposed an “aggressive” public relations campaign to help tobacco company RJ Reynolds undermine perceptions of smoking’s health hazards.

While Edelman now refuses to represent tobacco companies, it continues to work with fossil fuel companies and apply the same PR tactics.

Broken Promises

In August 2014, some of the world’s biggest PR firms issued a declaration stating that they would not represent clients who deny manmade climate change or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Edelman eventually responded, confirming that “we do not accept client assignments that aim to deny climate change.”

However, in November last year, Greenpeace Canada obtained details of an aggressive plan to recruit 35,000 online ‘activists’ to sway public opinion in favour of the TransCanada tar sands pipeline.

In February this year, it was thought that Edelman was making progress. It was unveiled in February that Edelman had gradually cut its ties with America’s powerful oil lobbyist, the API, after it was reported that the subsidiary company (Blue Advertising) that handled the bulk of its advertising contracts with API – worth $327.4 million – is, eventually, to cut itself off from Edelman’s central operations.

But, fresh doubts have been cast on the credibility of its supposed change in attitude after four high-level executives have resigned from Edelman in the last two months because of the company’s refusal to stop working for the fossil fuel industry.

In light of this news, campaigners have launched a separate petition to tell Edelman to stop “promoting” climate change. The petition was launched on CREDO Action – a social change organisation funded by CREDO Mobile – which has over 27,000 signatories. It says: “The fact is, in the face of the overwhelming evidence on climate change, any attempt to continue promoting fossil fuels and fossil fuel expansion is outright denial.”

@benjameslucas

Photo: Cuadrilla via Creative Commons