Campaigners celebrate Barclays’ decision to stop funding fracking – bank says “no urgency” to sell Third Energy

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Opponents of plans to frack in North Yorkshire have welcomed confirmation by Barclays that it plans to sell its stake in Third Energy “at some point”.

Barclays owns 97% of Third Energy, which has permission to frack for shale gas at its KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.

Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, told shareholders last week that the rundown of what the bank calls non-core assets, including Third Energy, was being accelerated. He said:

“The good news is that non-core closure is now less than two months away”.

Friends of the Earth emailed supporters today describing the decision as “a massive blow for the fracking industry” and urged them to keep up pressure on the bank. The local campaign group, Frack Free Ryedale, said it was “amazing news” and Frack Free South Yorkshire congratulated the bank on what it described as a “momentous decision”.

But a spokesperson for Third Energy said:

“This doesn’t change the situation on the ground. Barclays will sell at some point, as any private equity investor would, but there’s no urgency or deadline.”

And a spokesperson for Barclays said:

“The Chairman reiterated at Wednesday’s AGM that the TE [Third Energy] holding sits in Barclays Non-Core (BNC). BNC was set up three years ago to house assets not core to our strategy, and will be folded back into the Group at the end of June, with c.£25bn of risk-weighted assets (including the TE holding) still on its books. We will sell our TE holding at some point, though there is no new driver of that or urgency to the situation.”

Over the past two years campaigners have protested at Barclays across the UK. In the past few weeks, branches across southern England have been targeted (DrillOrDrop report).

Monica Gripaios, who lives in Ryedale and campaigns for Frack Free Ryedale, attended Barclays AGM and asked a question to Mr McFarlane, which prompted him to announce plans to dispose of non-core assets.

The decision was confirmed in a statement to investors.

Mrs Gripaios, who also handed in a petition with nearly 70,000 names against the bank’s involvement in Third Energy, said:

“After coming to the AGM for three year running, I was so delighted to hear the chairman say the bank are planning to divest from this area. I hope they will follow through on the promise and this is not an empty commitment. I certainly feel reassured and hope that I don’t have to go back next year”.

Steve Mason of Frack Free Ryedale said:

“This is amazing news! Clearly fracking is a bad investment environmentally, socially and financially, with the majority of political parties in England are now opposed to fracking, I think potential investors should take heed. Where is the long term future of this industry?

“Why would you put money into an industry that is increasingly rejected by communities and could get banned at anytime? I wouldn’t want my investments relying on election results! Especially after what has happened in recent years”.

Frack Free South Yorkshire congratulated the bank. A spokesperson said:

“We have worked with People & Planet, along with other anti-fracking groups and organisations across the country who share our concerns, to persuade Barclays to divest from the fracking industry.

“This is yet another demonstration that repeated visible protest, backed up with logical, sensible well-researched arguments can create positive change.”

Just over a year ago, Third Energy received planning permission to frack at KM8 well. North Yorkshire’s planning committee voted by seven to four in favour of the application, which included plans to produce gas for up to nine years. There were 4,000 objections to the plans and a petition against it of more than 2,500 signatures.

Local campaigners failed in their attempt to challenge the approval at a judicial review. They argued in the High Court that the council should not have advised elected members that they could not legally require Third Energy to pay a financial bond to put right any damage caused by fracking at Kirby Misperton.

The company declared a loss of £3.8m for the year ending December 2015. It also reported that it owed more than £50m to parent and sister companies and that turnover was less than half that of the previous year (DrillOrDrop report).

Frank Colenso, a resident in Ryedale, said today:

“The North Yorkshire County Planners need to have a rethink regarding a bond if the sale of Third Energy finally goes ahead.

“With a net worth in excess of minus £50m, who now is going to pay the bill if anything goes wrong? We will continue to oppose all fracking of any kind in Ryedale, North Yorkshire and the UK to protect health, the landscape, tourism and the community”.

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