Caroline Lucas MP criticises EA pension investments

According to Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, it is a “clear conflict of interest” for the Environment Agency pension fund to be investing in the industries it regulates.

The comments came after an Independent on Sunday investigation found the UK environmental regulator’s pension fund invests millions in industries which it then regulates.

Details released in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests reveal that the EA’s pension fund, worth £2.3 billion, invests in companies investing in fracking, incineration and nuclear power, all of which the Agency regulates.

The EA pension fund apparently holds £50m of direct investments in oil and gas companies such as Shell, BP and BG Group, as well as millions more in indirect oil and gas funds.

Additionally, it is invested in Centrica – which has a financial interest in the shale gas exploration licenses held by Cuadrilla Resources in Lancashire – and Barclays Bank, the majority owner of Third Energy that is exploring for natural gas in North Yorkshire where it already operates existing gas fields.

Green MP, Caroline Lucas, is reported to have said: “News that the Environment Agency has investments in some of the very industries it is paid to regulate is deeply shocking. There is a clear conflict here, which undermines the credibility of the Environment Agency and calls into question its independence and authority.”

However, the Environment Agency also regulates waste produced by every business in England. Following Lucas’ logic would mean its pension fund couldn’t invest in any waste-producing business in the country – forcing it, instead, to invest overseas rather than support listed British companies.

The Environment Agency  regulates some renewable energy sectors too, such as biogas production by anaerobic digestion. Investment in this sector has increased significantly in recent years, and there is every possibility that the Agency’s pension fund will have some exposure to investments in renewables and other ‘green’ technology businesses that it also regulates.