Calls for Government to apologise over heavily redacted report into fracking

A fracking drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex
A fracking drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex
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The Environment Secretary has been urged to apologise to communities facing fracking for “holding back” evidence of the risks of shale exploration in rural areas.

And campaigners have called for fracking to be put on hold in the UK while a “genuinely independent, qualified body” reviews all the risks associated with the controversial process of extracting gas and oil.

A draft report from the Environment Department (Defra) said fracking could reduce house prices, increase traffic, produce deafening noise for residents and damage the landscape in rural communities.

But potential negative impacts of fracking were obscured when a heavily-redacted version of the internal report was published last summer by Defra in response to a request under environmental information laws.

They only emerged when Defra was forced by the Information Commissioner to publish in full the document, which it did on the day a major report recommending a third runway for Heathrow was brought out.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the report added weight to the case against shale gas extraction in Britain, and accused the Government of conducting itself “appallingly” in holding back the negative information. She called on Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss to apologise to communities facing the possibility of fracking.

Among the deleted sections of the draft report were suggestions that house prices could fall by up to seven per cent in close proximity to shale gas exploration sites, while rental prices in the area could be pushed up by people coming to work on the developments.

Properties located within up to five miles from fracking operations could face additional insurance costs to cover losses in case of explosion on-site, the study suggested.

While the redacted report flagged up the jobs opportunities created by fracking, the un-redacted version sounds a note of caution on this subject.

It warned that it was less clear how sustainable shale gas investments would be and if rural communities could take advantage of them.