Secret Whitehall report reveals Government cover-up on fracking

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 01 Jul 2015 18:39, Last updated: 2015-07-01
Whitehall report exposes fracking as the false promise many suspected
Whitehall report exposes fracking as the false promise many suspected

A Government shale gas report that Ministers battled to keep secret reveals how fracking could hit house prices, worsen traffic congestion, affect water quality and even actually increase carbon emissions.

The previously redacted report has finally been published in full by the Government this evening following a successful year-long transparency campaign by Greenpeace.

The 24-page document lays bare the web of Whitehall spin and lies that could still force fracking on to a reluctant and mainly unsupportive public.

As well as raising red flags about fracking’s negative impacts, the report also questions some of the key arguments about job creation and economic benefits put forward by Ministers and the discredited fracking industry.

Commenting on the evidence gathered in the report, Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said: “This report gives the lie to the shale lobby and Ministers’ claim that there’s no evidence of negative impacts for fracking whilst questioning many of the arguments made in favour of it.

“It’s a complete vindication of Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Cuadrilla’s bid to frack in their region, and provides other councils with compelling reasons to do the same.

“New York state has just made its fracking ban permanent. The only sensible course of action for the government is to declare a fracking moratorium and establish a truly independent inquiry to look at the wealth of available evidence about shale gas impacts.

"Sneaking out this study late on the day of the Davies Commission announcement is further proof, if needed, of how desperate ministers are to bury evidence of fracking’s potential impacts on our communities and the environment."

The report says fracking ‘could help reduce net greenhouse emissions associated with imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in particular’, but ‘if LNG or other fossil fuel displaced from the UK is used elsewhere, that could lead to an increase in global GHG emissions.’

The study acknowledges evidence of impacts on property prices is ‘quite thin’ in the literature, but concludes: “There could potentially be a range of 0 to 7% reductions in property values within 1 mile of an extraction site to reflect the impacts.” It also warns that properties within a 1-5 mile radius of fracking sites "may also incur an additional cost of insurance to cover losses in case of explosion on the site".

The report also questions whether rural communities will really benefit from jobs. It concludes: “What is less clear is how sustainable the shale gas investments will be in the future and whether rural communities have the right mix of skills to take advantage of the new jobs and wider benefits on offer. Evidence from the USA suggests this is not necessarily the case, with a high proportion of expenditures associated with drilling being made outside of the local rural economy.”

The report concludes that the “long term economic impacts to rural communities is uncertain and will largely depend upon how revenue raised during the shale gas boom is reinvested within the local economy”. It also warns that “the international evidence on this [benefits] is weak”.

According to the study, the overall impacts are likely to be mixed with short-term positive economic gains from employment and energy that need to be balanced against the costs that may affect certain groups, such as businesses involved in tourism, local house price impacts and increased congestion

An estimated 14 to 51 truck movements to a site each day over a 32 to 145 week period “could have an adverse impact on traffic congestion, noise or air quality depending on existing roads, traffic and air quality”.

Analysing the potential effects on water, it added: “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.”

It also revealed: “Overall the potential impacts on water resource availability, aquatic habitats and ecosystems and water quality is uncertain”.

And wastewater from fracking “could place a burden on existing wastewater treatment infrastructure capacity, and require further or new investment”. Though this could be mitigated by “on-site treatment and recycling”.

The report’s analysis of the impact of fracking on local services concludes: “It is unclear whether this level of investment will be sufficient to meet the additional demand if new schools or hospitals are needed to ensure service provision for existing rural communities is maintained.”

Following tonight’s publication, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth commented: “No wonder Defra sat on this explosive report until after the Lancashire decisions – it shows that people living close to rural fracking sites can expect to see the value of their homes fall by up to 7% and their insurance costs rise.

“Businesses could also suffer as it reveals that fracking threatens agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation businesses through increased industrialisation of previously tranquil and pristine rural areas.

“Instead of hiding information and trying to force through fracking, the UK Government should follow the lead of Wales and Scotland and put fracking on hold.”

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