The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) tried to cover up negative effects fracking would have on rural areas it has been revealed after the department lost another freedom of information battle.
The department published a heavily redacted version of a report into the impact shale gas extraction could have on rural areas last year but was swiftly criticised for doing so with 63 pages of the report deemed too sensitive for public release.
But Defra was coerced into releasing the full report this week by energy minister Andrea Leadsom, who said it should be made available to the public so they could “draw their own conclusions”.
Previously redacted evidence was released yesterday afternoon, showing that Defra had tried to cover up specific impacts fracking would have. Not only did the report conclude that houses within a mile of an extraction site could fall by up to 7%, but that properties within five miles could be hit by additional insurance costs to cover potential explosions.
The report also included evidence of environmental damage caused by fracking in the US and suggested human health could be affected indirectly through the consumption of wildlife drinking contaminated water streams.
The department has subsequently been widely condemned and Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said the department had tried to hide information to force through the practice, which earlier this week was blocked by Lancashire county council.
“No wonder Defra sat on this explosive report until after the Lancashire decisions – it shows that people living close to rural fracking sites could 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,” Bosworth said.
It comes just months after Defra was hit by a similarly embarrassing freedom of information loss after requests filed by Solar Power Portal revealed the department’s clamp down on solar developments was based on politics rather than evidence.
In February an FOI revealed that the CAP Direct Payments Team told Defra last year that solar farms did not have a serious impact on agricultural impact, reinforced by extensive data from the National Farmers Union and AEE Renewables, however environment secretary Elizabeth Truss still argued that the technology risked “compromising the success” of the UK’s agriculture industry and scrapped farming subsidies for solar fields.
Truss has since tried to distance herself from the fracking report, calling it misleading.