Fracking is a subject that undoubtedly divides opinion but both supporters and opponents of the shale gas industry should be united in wishing to be properly informed about how the Government sees the process working in this country.
The fact that the Cabinet Office has refused to publish a 2016 report into implementing the industry in this country on the grounds that doing so “could call into question the industry’s viability” is cause for considerable concern.
The refusal to provide the report to Yorkshire MP Kevin Barron comes in the context of parts of it being made public last month under Freedom of Information laws, with the limited disclosures revealing far fewer wells are now forecast to be in operation by 2025 than previously expected; casting doubt on previous estimates that 4,000 wells could be in place by 2032 and capable of providing power to 20m homes.
The Government says that fracking is necessary as a way of reducing the nation’s reliance on imported energy. But it has already acknowledged the impact it is expected to have on local communities by establishing a £1bn fund to support affected places, potentially including compensation payments to homeowners.
As has been seen in the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, where a protest camp is only now shutting down after more than a year and following over 80 arrests, just the prospect of the arrival of fracking brings turmoil and disruption. Even those who support the industry in principle have legitimate cause to be concerned about the impact on daily life given seven companies are currently developing plans to explore whether fracking is feasible across vast swathes of Yorkshire.
People living close to planned fracking sites deserve to see the evidence that is available about how, and indeed if, the industry can work in this country.