uk fracking protest
New documents reveal that the U.K. government is backing a bid from energy producers to overturn measures that would limit fracking. In this photo, a man walks past a anti-fracking slogan during a demonstration outside County Hall in Preston, Britain on June 24, 2015. Reuters/Andrew Yates

The U.K. government has backed a secret lobbying push from oil and gas firms, including BP, Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil, to persuade the European Union to drop a set of proposed environmental safety measures for hydraulic fracturing of hydrocarbons and other natural resources, popularly known as fracking, according to leaked reports.

The push would deregulate safety measures, including the monitoring of methane leaks and ensuring the capture of gases and volatile compounds that may otherwise be vented openly.

In a July letter to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, a group of oil and gas moguls say that the proposed controls on the industry would be costly and ineffective, and “of such little perceived value (that it) is very hard to justify, especially at a time of intense focus on safety, cost and efficiency of day-to-day operations,” arguing against instituting a new measure which would mandate the use of the best available technologies and risk management methods (known as BREFs) in fracking operations, according to the Guardian.

“We urge you to intervene and ... withdraw this proposal which, if it were to go ahead, would seriously exacerbate an already ailing investment climate for producing oil and gas within Europe,” the letter goes on to say.

The heads of firms, which include ConocoPhillips, Statoil and Petrobas, also promised in the letter to further address their concerns with the proposed regulations with Timmermans in private.

U.K. government sources also said that any controls placed on the industry would be “an unnecessary restriction on the UK oil and gas industry,” according to the Guardian.

These measures are now reportedly being backed by the U.K. government, which are in favor of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s so-called “better regulation” agenda, which calls for minimizing social, environmental and health legislation.

A representative from the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change told the Guardian that: “We support the Better Regulation agenda, but would work with the European commission to avoid any unnecessary red tape that could come in from further regulations. The regulatory regime for oil and gas in the UK is recognized as one of the best in the world.”

However, European Union officials said that they planned to go ahead with the proposal. A first meeting of experts from various E.U. nations is planned in October, and the final proposal is due in May 2018.

Previous attempts to impose binding legal regulations on fracking for all E.U. nations were defeated after intense lobbying from British Prime Minister David Cameron.

While the BREF measure does not constitute a legally binding “regulation”, an April letter from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) Director Roland Festor expressed concern over BREF measures being used as backdoor regulation.

“IOGP is growing increasingly concerned at the apparent proliferation of BREF initiatives as an alternative way of regulating industry,” Festor told E.U. diplomats in the letter, according to the Guardian. While the BREF measures lacked the legal power of a directive, Festor warned that “it could nevertheless be binding because of the references to ‘best practices’ that can be found in operating licenses in (E.U.) member states,” he reportedly wrote.