Reaction to release of Defra rural fracking report

Yesterday the government published an uncensored report on the impacts of shale gas development on rural areas.

The document had first been published 11 months ago with more than 60 sections blanked out. But llast month, the Information Commissioner gave Defra, which commissioned the report 30 days to publish it in full under the Freedom of Information Act. What the report said 

Here’s some of the reaction to the long-awaited publication

Significant timing

“No wonder Defra sat on this explosive report until after the Lancashire decisions. 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.” Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner

Vindication of Lancashire decision

“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.”

Greenpeace also accused the Government of attempting to “bury evidence” of fracking’s impacts by “sneaking out this study late on the day of the Davies Commission announcement”. Daisy Sands, Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner (Quoted in The Telegraph)

House prices and insurance

“No wonder Defra redacted this bit: up to 7% off house prices & higher insurance costs in case fracking site explodes”, Emily Gosden, Daily Telegraph Energy Correspondent, on Twitter

Appalling conduct

“It’s no surprise at all that the Government has been so reluctant to release this damning report. The evidence in this report – that local communities could suffer from deafening noise pollution, surface water contamination and hikes in insurance costs – adds further weight to the growing case against fracking in Britain.

“The Government has conducted itself appallingly in holding back this crucial evidence. The Environment Secretary should now offer a full apology to communities facing the threat of fracking and guarantee that such deceitful behaviour won’t happen again in the future.” Caroline Lucas MP

Impacts could be worse than believed

”This report is full of warnings of adverse impacts. It is admitted that we would lose out on tourism and our farming would be put at risk. Our health could be put at risk, we would suffer from traffic, noise and other disruption. We would see our house prices drop.

“We believe the information from the US used in the report is already out-of-date and the impacts could be far worse than DEFRA suggest.The reality is, for example, that house prices near the proposed PNR [Preston New Road in Lancashire] drilling site have plummeted and properties have been made unsaleable. Although this report is still a damning indictment of the effects of fracking, in our view the negative impacts are greatly understated. But even as it stands this report fully validates Lancashire County Council’s decision this week to refuse Cuadrilla permission. The impacts could be far worse than the committee thought. The bottom line is, fracking is not acceptable in the midst of our community.” Preston New Road Action Group

Not the view of officials or ministers

“This document was drawn up as a draft internal discussion paper – it is not analytically robust, has not been peer-reviewed and remains incomplete. It does not contain any new data or evidence, and many of the conclusions amount to unsubstantiated conjecture, which do not represent the views of officials or ministers.” Defra spokesperson (Quoted in The Guardian)

Nothing new

 “It is a shame that this report has become such a cause celebre as it is merely a review of literature and brings nothing new to the debate or any new information in a UK context.” Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG)

Vague unsupported assumptions

“This paper is an early draft of an internal document; it is not analytically robust. Work on it has since been discontinued. The draft paper was intended as a review of existing literature. It includes early, often vague, assumptions which are not supported by appropriate evidence. These were never intended as considered Defra positions or as statements of fact. Containing no new evidence, the paper simply refers to data from overseas studies which cannot be used to predict impacts in the UK with any degree of reliability. The author of the paper was not asked to consider, and did not have an in-depth knowledge of, the UK regulatory framework” Introduction to report

6 replies »

  1. This should have been published earlier. We saw claims from activists that house prices would drop 70%!. Upper bound limit was put at 7%, and even then much of that was down to perception – and thats the upper bound, not the most likely case. No doubt that would be during the drilling phase as well, which is temporary anyway. All that fuss and it ends up that frackings impact was predicted as less than wind turbines (the upper bound for which is 12%).

    This has all been rather silly – unless you hold the opinion that zero house price affect by any project is required. Fair enough if that is your opinion, but it isn’t rational.

    My personal favourite from all this was the focus on insurance due to explosions. Obviously a cool word to focus in on. If this had been a conventional well though it would have been passed, and that is the funny thing. Shale gas wells do not drill for, or in Lancs penetrate, a pressurised reservoir. I appreciate that if you don’t know about this that won’t immediately mean much to you, but it means the wells are much safer to drill than a conventional well because there is nothing to kick at you – nothing to cause a blowout. When you drill the well there is no gas or oil there and no fluids under pressure to manage. In olden days it would be considered a dead well. Then after the well is drained – taking a matter of a few years – the well has lost its productive pressure and is dead again because the artificial fracture network that was created by fracking has been drained and so the well is dead again. A shale gas well is safer both in drilling and in post production and abandonment than a conventional reservoir. Yet if that was a conventional well it would have been given permission without any issue.

    I am just happy that that part of the process is over. Councillors are rightly affected by local opinion, but there are checks and balances as to whether the local opinion is in fact accurate. Councillors fear for their jobs, just as they should, and can be forced to vote in certain ways – independent of whether that is right. Ultimately the councillors were scared into making this decision and the activists know it – they are proud that they did it and accept responsibility for it, they claim it as their win. That is fine. But the next step of the process is to test whether that pressure put on the local politicians was accurate. The outcome will be to blame the nasty anti democratic government when it overturns the decisions on appeal, but in reality it just shows that the system works. With enough money and effort you can get your way at a local level, but if you have done it deviously then don’t expect it to hold up at appeal, just because the councillors were scared enough for their jobs.

  2. House price drop 7%? That is nothing for housing market fluctuation. Price drop? Good for new home owner making it more affordable for young people like me. But rents go up so I can buy it and rent it to the workers. And the number of people around the two sites LCC rejected are affected by this exploration work? 50 or so. Compared to 60 millions who will have to import over 80% of their fuel bill from the middle east in a few year times. There are no tourism around these sites anyway so it is not relevant. The site might be a tourist attraction themselves to show what the ridiculous fusses in the scare campaign are all about. What the report didn’t say was, the issue with fuel cost fro business, supply security and keeping warm of 70 million people or so are being blackmailed and taken hostages by 50 or so people because of low impact inconvenience that will be financially compensated and mitigated by regulation. These inconvenience are currently experienced and accepted and tolerated by those live close to coal mines, quarry, wind farm, nuclear plant, airport, railway line, highways that allow the whole country to continue to operate and move forward with a more secured future while these same inconvenience, that provide the same opportunity and comfort for these same 50 or so people, are being used to blackmail and hold hostage on the opportunity to find out a new energy source that affect national strategic planning of fuel supply and energy security. A balance view must be prevailed in this very important issue.

    • Tommie

      You clearly have no idea that there are about 146,000 households in Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde who could be affected here. About 75% are owner occupied. 7 % of the owner occupied housing stock at an average price of £150k is about £1.1 billion. When the government and / or Cuadrilla agrees to stump up for a compensation fund of that order maybe they may be able to get a bit closer to the social licence / informed consent that they need to move forward/ until then….

      As the redacted bits now make clear 50 people is the a lot closer to the number of locals who will find permanent employment through fracking than it to the number who will be financially affected by it.

      If you are interested you can see the redactions highlighted here http://www.refracktion.com/index.php/those-defra-redactions-exposed/

      • Your analysis and calculation of house price drop is not consistent with the report. The loss is postulated on those within 3 miles of the drilling sites proposed and therefore doesn’t apply to most if not all of LCC in Blackpool or Fylde. Last year LLJ survey on house price regarding the two existing sites in Singleton and Grange Hill did not find any negative impact on properties sale around the two site (there was even a positive gain compared to the average price of the whole Lancashire). This is pretty much a scare campaign by the anti-shale activists.

  3. ” …higher insurance costs in case fracking site explodes”, Emily Gosden, Daily Telegraph Energy Correspondent, on Twitter”

    Absolutely no evidence whatsoever that risk or insurance premiums would change.

    Insurance companies love trying to condition the market into expecting to pay higher premiums; it’s simply their negotiating ploy.

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