Another frac ‘n gag to cover up frac damages? Cuadrilla signs non-disclosure agreement with UK’s national earthquake monitoring agency, British Geological Survey, to ‘destroy confidential documents’ and release operational data only at company’s request

Fracking firm Cuadrilla signs secret deal with geological agency to ‘destroy confidential documents’, Exclusive: Campaigners say non-disclosure deal lacks transparency by Dean Kirby, ugust 23rd 2019,

The UK’s national earthquake monitoring agency has a secret deal with fracking company Cuadrilla to release the firm’s operational data only with its permission and to destroy confidential documents at the firm’s request, it can be revealed.

The non-disclosure agreement between Cuadrilla and the British Geological Survey – which allows the BGS to access specified information from Cuadrilla but not to distribute it without the firm’s say so – is an effort by the company to cast a veil over its operations at ­Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, Lancashire, anti-fracking campaigners say. News of the deal’s existence comes days after Cuadrilla was accused of downplaying the largest earth tremor yet at its site near Blackpool.

i has obtained a redacted copy of Cuadrilla’s agreement along with 110 pages of emails shared between BGS and Cuadrilla using 2004 Environmental Information Regulations.

Dr Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “A confidentiality agreement will do little to ­increase confidence in an unpopular and mistrusted industry.”

Under the 11-page agreement, BGS is required to:

Keep private any confidential information passed to BGS relating to Cuadrilla’s operations, processes, know-how, designs, trade secrets or software;

Erase all of Cuadrilla’s confidential information from BGS computer systems at Cuadrilla’s request;

Destroy or return all documents and materials containing or based upon Cuadrilla’s information at Cuadrilla’s request.

Secret agreement
One BGS official said in an email on 24 July: “We have had a request asking a number of questions about our relationship with Cuadrilla and, in particular, requesting a copy of the NDA we signed. I am just thinking about legal grounds for non-­release and just wondered if your legal guys had any thoughts?”

A Cuadrilla spokesperson confirmed there was an agreement, adding: “This agreement does not in any way impact the BGS in its publishing of a range of monitoring data. A confidentiality agreement is fairly standard practice between private and public sector organisations. Cuadrilla is committed to open and transparent operations.”

How deal with Cuadrilla was uncovered by i
The confidentiality agreement came to light after the British Geological Survey redacted data in an earlier request by this newspaper using the Environment Information Regulations.

The BGS said at that time: “Cuadrilla supplied it expecting it would not be disclosed (as a written confidentiality agreement is in existence) and Cuadrilla has not agreed to it being released.”

It said releasing that data would “damage Cuadrilla’s legitimate economic interest by displacing Cuadrilla’s first-mover advantage and market position obtained through significant investment and severely affect [its] stock market value.”

i later requested full disclosure of the the confidentiality agreement and was sent a redacted copy of the secret document by the BGS. BGS emails also show how officials at the public body were asking Caudrilla, led by chief executive Francis Egan, whether the agreement should be covered up.

57 tremors in 60 days of fracking
Any tremor measuring 0.5ML or above means fracking at Preston New Road must be temporarily stopped while tests are carried out. In 60 days of fracking last year, there were 57 tremors in Lancashire.

Fracking was halted on Wednesday this week after the biggest tremor yet, measuring 1.55ML according to Cuadrilla and 1.6ML according to the BGS. People living near the Preston New Road site said they felt and heard the tremor at 8.46pm.

Cuadrilla wants the UK government to raise the level at which fracking must be suspended.

Refer also to:

Lancashire frac’ing: 1.6M earthquake stops Cuadrilla’s work “This is a serious issue and we know that seismic activity at similar levels deformed the well bore at Preese Hall, which Cuadrilla failed to report to the relevant authorities for six months.”

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