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West Sussex council invests in fracking firms
A council which decides planning permission for fracking drills has money invested in the energy companies which are behind the controversial process.
West Sussex County Council Pension Fund (WSCCPF) invests in energy firms Celtique Energie and Cuadrilla - the same company thousands of protesters spent last summer campaigning against when it carried out exploratory drilling for shale gas in Balcombe.
WSCCPF has invested more than £3 million in Cuadrilla through its UK partner Centrica, the same company that owns British Gas, according to an investigation by The Ecologist.
The council has also admitted to having “very small indirect investments” via private equity managers to Celtique Energie.
However despite suggestions the investments could influence planning applications submitted to the council by the energy firms, West Sussex County Council said each application was decided on “planning grounds and nothing else”.
The authority said its pension fund has a diversified investment portfolio valued at around £2.6 billion, of which £2.2 billion is in two balanced portfolios managed by Ballie Gifford and UBS.
It added that both of these operate a fully discretionary mandate and invest in the main investment markets in line with the fund's investment principles and guidelines.
A council spokesman said: “Both managers select investments to fulfil their performance obligation to the pension fund to maximise returns on investments and minimise the burden on employers and taxpayers.
“The pension fund is managed quite distinctly so any decisions made by the county council and investments held by the pension fund will not alter any planning decision that that the county council does or does not take.
“Whilst the pension fund does not have any direct exposure to Celtique or Cuadrilla it has a couple of very small indirect investments via its private equity managers to Celtique and Cuadrilla - c.0.001% of the portfolio for each.
“The pension fund also has a small direct holding in Centrica (c.£3.3m).”
Cuadrilla wrote to villagers in Balcombe last month to tell them the site they spent more than a month testing last year was not suitable for extracting shale gas.
But the firm has submitted a further planning application to “flow test” the site for more conventional extraction.