Troubled unconventional gas company Dart Energy’s threat of legal action, made to Dr Richard Dixon, ended today in an embarrassing climb down by the company.
Dart Energy is an Australian unconventional gas company seeking to acquire planning permission to extract coalbed methane at Airth near Falkirk. It has recently appealed its application to the Scottish government on the grounds of non-determination. Dr Dixon is Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland and also a board member of SEPA.
In a letter sent to Dr Dixon by lawyers representing Dart Energy it is claimed that his involvement with both organisations constitutes a conflict of interest. They demanded that Dr Dixon refrain from tweeting about the organisation and threatened legal action if he did not sign a letter stating that he would take no involvement with any consultation to do with Dart’s activities, remove tweets from his twitter feed pertaining to the company and desist from posting comments about them in the future. Dr Dixon was given 48 hours to reply.
Dr Dixon replied to the letter stating that he always declares an interest at SEPA board meetings if there is an agenda item related to an active campaign of Friends of the Earth Scotland. He pointed out that his twitter account makes it perfectly clear that he tweets as the Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland and that he will not be removing any of his tweets. Finally he added that he would “not be signing your bit of paper”.
Reacting to another letter received today from Dart Energy which thanked him for his reply and stated that they would no longer be pursuing legal action, Dr Dixon said:
“It’s a pretty scary experience to be faced with legal action from a multi-million pound company. This attempt to gag my comments has back-fired and instead it has brought the issues relating to fracking and coal bed methane extraction in Scotland to a larger audience.
“Today I received a letter from Dart which was a climb-down on their previous correspondence and stated that since I was tweeting on behalf of Friends of the Earth Scotland they would not pursue the matter further.
“Many more people have now learnt about our campaign and opposition to their proposals for coal bed methane extraction than if they had never got in touch threatening me with legal action.
“This is an embarrassing climb-down for Dart and a victory for campaigners everywhere, Friends of the Earth Scotland and also freedom of speech.”