Defra fracking report – the truths the Government tried to hide

Tony Bosworth

03 July 2015

A fracking report the Government tried to keep secret reveals the true damage that fracking could do to rural economies. 

An internal Defra report on the effects of fracking on the rural economy was published last year, but so heavily redacted that it was utterly meaningless.

The full, unredacted version has finally came out - and it’s explosive stuff.

The Government was forced to publish it after an appeal to the Information Commissioner, but no doubt were happy to keep it quiet until after Lancashire County Council’s votes on fracking.  

In the past few days Lancashire councillors have rejected planning applications by fracking company Cuadrilla to frack at 2 sites in the county.

But David Cameron has said he still wants fracking "whether in Lancashire or elsewhere" and we know national Government could overturn the decision if Cuadrilla appeal - so please sign our petition. 

Tell Cameron to respect Lancs decision

Details hidden in the fracking report

To give you a flavour of the redacted report, page 12 looked like this.

Defra report

The unredacted document is full of bombshells. Early on, we read that

House prices in close proximity to drilling sites are likely to fall

Government report on fracking

Later in the report, the possible price drop is said to be up to 7%.

In Lancashire, that’s not hypothetical. 

Marie and Rowland Taylor (pictured above) have just sold their house near Cuadrilla’s Roseacre site where planning permission for fracking was recently turned down.

Rowland says:

We managed eventually to sell the house. We had 3 people desperate to buy but because of the fracking they couldn’t bring themselves to live in that area. We eventually sold it to someone who lived locally but unfortunately at a very big loss, just over £50,000.

And it’s not just lower house prices but higher insurance premiums too. The report says:

Properties located within a 1-5 mile radius of the fracking operation may also incur an additional cost of insurance to cover losses in case of explosion on site

Government fracking report

Much of the concern about fracking has been about risks to water, and on this the report states:

"Experience from the US indicates that leakage of waste fluids from the drilling and fracking processes has resulted in environmental damage."

Government fracking report admits risk to human health

The fracking report also says:

"There is a risk that even if contaminated surface water does not directly impact drinking water supplies, it can affect human health indirectly through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock or agricultural products."

Farmers and market gardeners in Lancashire have been saying that fracking could be the ruin of them.

The Government and industry have pooh-pooed claims of industrialisation of the countryside, but according to the report:

Shale gas development may transform a previously pristine and quiet natural region, bringing increased industrialisation

Government fracking report

That’s exactly what campaigners in Ryedale, North Yorkshire where Barclays-owned Third Energy wants to frack, are concerned about.

The fracking industry and its friends in Government always hype up job creation from fracking, but they never talk about possible negative effects on other key economic sectors like agriculture and tourism.

Fracking damage to farming and tourism

The report states:

"Rural community businesses that rely on clean air, land, water, and/or a tranquil environment may suffer losses from this change such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation."

And that there could be:

"Losses from tourists avoiding area due to shale gas operations"

That will be a real worry in the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre areas of Lancashire where Cuadrilla wants to frack – 10% of local employment is in tourism and agriculture.

The report also touches on climate change, saying,

If fossil fuel displaced from the UK is used elsewhere, that could lead to an increase in global GHG emissions

Government fracking report

In other words, there's no guarantee that any shale gas produced in the UK will be used instead of other fossil fuels, rather than as well as.

Without a global climate deal, we can't t get that guarantee, meaning that UK shale gas will just mean more climate change.

There’s much more in the report: reports of deafening noise near fracking sites in the US, concerns that local workers are unlikely to get higher skilled jobs, predictions of more traffic congestion… the list goes on.

Government ignoring local people

This report is further evidernce of how the Government is trying to trample on local democracy and manipulate the fracking debate.

We know they have been working hand in glove with Cuadrilla, plotting how to undermine democratically-taken local council decisions.

Now we know that in the version of the document released last year, the Government redacted just about anything about risks and kept in anything positive. Cynical.

The biggest problem for the fracking industry and its supporters in Government is winning over local communities. They are failing badly, as Monday’s decision in Lancashire showed. 

Monday’s decision and the contents of this report will strengthen the resolve of other communities and councils to say no to fracking.

And Friends of the Earth will be there with them all the way.

Tell Cameron to respect Lancs decision

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fracking house prices