[Tory] “Council invested in fracking company behind controversial planning approval”

“A council which gave planning permission for a controversial scheme to bring fracking to North Yorkshire had at the time of the decision pensions investments in one of the companies set to benefit – the US oil giant, Halliburton.

The Conservative-led North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) gave the green light for exploratory drilling by Third Energy UK Gas Ltd at Kirby Misperton in May 2016. In turn, Third Energy UK Gas Ltd signed a contract with Halliburton “to support its onshore development activities”.

That same year the council – through its North Yorkshire Pension Fund (NYPF) – had £572,000 invested in Halliburton. North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has since jettisoned its stake. However, it still invests in fracking concerns.

Conflict and injustice

Elaine Williams, a spokesperson for NYCC, told The Ecologist: “We appoint fund managers for North Yorkshire County Council’s pension fund and they determine which investments to buy and sell – decisions which are outside of the council’s day to day control.

“The pension fund committee is completely separate to the county council’s planning committee. The pension fund committee is charged with delivering value to members of the pension fund, independent of council business.”

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT), which is a stakeholder in the NYPF, has called for the council to review its investment policies. The trust is an admitted member of the scheme – it has taken on some council responsibilities where transferred staff still have pensions managed by the council.

Susannah Swinton, operations manager at JRCT, said: “The trust has raised the issue of ethical and responsible investment with NYPF. We are currently an admitted member of the North Yorkshire Pension Fund, which is part of the Local Government Pension scheme. Decisions on the fund’s investment policy and strategy are the responsibility of NYCCPF and are not under the control of JRCT.”

In 2014, JRCT – the philanthropic Quaker group funding people who address the root causes of conflict and injustice – was one of 17 of the world’s largest funds to say they would divest from fossil fuels and reinvest their money in clean energy.”