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DEFRA fracking report reveals the truths that the government tried to hide

i Aug 31st 1 Comment by

A fracking report the Government tried to keep secret reveals the true damage that fracking could do to rural economies. 

An internal Defra report on the effects of fracking on the rural economy was published last year, but was so heavily redacted that it was utterly meaningless. The full, unredacted version has finally came out – and it’s explosive stuff.

Friends of the earth  have reported that “The Government was forced to publish it after an appeal to the Information Commissioner, but no doubt were happy to keep it quiet until after Lancashire County Council’s votes on fracking”

The original 13page ‘redacted; report contained 63 sections that were blanked out.

These include:

  • “Three major social impacts on rural communities” — blanked out
  • “Impact on house prices” — blanked out
  • “Impacts already experienced by communities near fracking sites” — blanked out
  • “Impact on businesses and business rates” — blanked out

Only three paragraphs of the Conclusions survived. Even the name of the author was removed. Most bizarrely, officials claimed that there was a “strong public interest” in withholding the information … from the public!

1407798295914_wps_1_shale_gas_how_they_cut_th

Source: Daily Mail

What did the ‘unredacted’ report reveal?

House prices could fall

“The DEFRA report determines that property valuation declines will vary based on the proximity to a drilling site. For instance, house prices within 1 mile of drilling operations could potentially fall by up to 4-7%, based on the Boxall (2005) et. al report, if they were within 2.5 miles of wells.

In May, the first extensive estate agents’ survey, carried out by the research agency Redshift, found that two thirds (67%) of estate agents interviewed said fracking operations could bring down house prices.A majority of them estimate the loss in value to be more than 8-11%, with two agents putting it as high as 41-70%. [11] Estate agents in areas in which energy firms have applied to start fracking – in Lancashire, Manchester and Sussex – were questioned and one in four said that buyers had expressed concerns about fracking.More than half of the estate agents surveyed said they were concerned fracking could reduce property sales near potential fracking sites.DefraInBlogImage1

In Lancashire, some property owners have already seen 50-100% write-offs in value. Last year, Dianna Westgarth said the price of her house on the Fylde peninsula in Lancashire – just 300 yards from a site where drilling firm Cuadrilla wants to start fracking – had dropped by 70%. [12]

In August, a spokesperson for the Valuation Office Agency – which sets the values of properties for council tax purposes – admitted that commercial activities such as fracking could reduce their value. [13] He said, “Fracking is not widespread yet but if a new site had a knock-on effect on the value of the house then it could also affect the council tax banding.” The DEFRA report states that in the USA, Pennsylvania properties within 1.4 miles of wells, lost up to 12.9% of their value when the frackers arrived.

The DEFRA report states that properties near fracking operations may incur an additional cost of insurance to cover “losses in case of explosion on the site.” Based on this information, home insurance providers should be asked what effect fracking might have on insurance premiums, considering the high risk of earthquakes. Last week, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court has decided that homeowners whose dwellings suffer damage due to fracking-related earthquakes can sue the companies responsible. [16]

In addition, mortgage providers should be asked how property valuations for mortgages would be effected by fracking. Some mortgage providers in the USA refuse to consider properties within fracking zones. [17] One of the lenders involved, Quicken Loans, said, “In some cases conditions exist, such as gas wells and other structures in nearby lots, that can significantly degrade a property’s value.” [18] If you can’t get a mortgage on a property, it pretty much becomes unsellable.

The government has not only failed to further investigate the potential extent of damage caused to the economy; upon producing this report, they have then proceeded to sweep their own findings under the carpet and plead ignorance.”

Source & image – Talk Fracking

Local businesses could suffer

The DEFRA report finds that tourism and other sectors may lose business due to increased congestion and noise, and new perceptions about the region; reducing the number of visitors and an associated reduction in spend in the local tourism economy. It states that rural community businesses such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation, which rely on clean air, land, water, and/or a tranquil environment; may suffer losses.

Government figures show that in 2010, tourism in predominantly rural areas was valued at £10.7 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) – the amount of goods and services that have been produced by this sector, minus all expenses directly attributable to the industry. Any decline in tourism would have a massive impact on rural economies because tourism accounts for 5.1% of the total GVA in rural areas. [19]

Source & image – Talk Fracking

Health: Water, noise, light and air pollution

People could experience the consequences of surface water contamination from fracking — not from drinking water but “it can affect human health indirectly through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock, or agricultural products”.

Noise and light pollution from rigs could also lead to problems, the internal Defra report acknowledges. It says: “Some residents may experience deafening noise; light pollution that affects sleeping patterns.”

“Noxious odours from venting gases can also impact on air quality for local residents,” it adds.

Truck movements to and from the site – about 14 to 51 journeys a day over a period of weeks – could also impact air pollution and noise.

And if you have resulting health problems you might find your local services stretched with the additional demand from the influx of fracking workers.

The report says that it’s unclear whether the extra funding given to communities “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”.

source – greenpeace

Money: Housing and jobs

So, your house might be worth up to 7% less if you live within a mile of a fracking site (though other estimates say 10% or even up to 70% of the value could be wiped off) — and you might have to pay more for your house insurance in case of an explosion on site.

And if you rent, rent prices are expected to rise as new workers come into the area.DefraInBlogImage2

Fracking is also a mixed bag for local economies — short term benefits belie costs in terms of industries including “agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.”

The report also highlights concerns about what happens to local economies after the frackers leave.

In case local people were thinking of working in the fracking industry, there is also uncertainty over “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”.

Regulatory uncertainty

And at a time of deep cuts to DECC, the Environment Agency and HSE – the people responsible for regulating the fracking industry – it is tricky that the report recommends that “regulatory capacity may need to be increased”.

A Defra statement said: “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.”

source – greenpeace

Here’s the full ‘unredacted’ report.

The sections that were previously redacted are highlighted in red

DEFRA-Redacted-Report

also click here for the full version in PDF

Comments

  1. margie
    September 14, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Interesting reading your very thoroughly researched comments on fracking and just thought I would add some interesting items I notice creeping into the public domain via the press which tells us the way politics are moving on damage limitation exercises for the fracking furore.

    Today the Mail tells us that diesel cars, once encouraged due to low Co2 emissions are now the baddies of the road as their Nitrogen Dioxide fumes are ”thought” to cause breathing probs for children and the elderly. Conveniently this provides a nice little scapegoat for any breathing difficulties increasing in vulnerable folk living in Ryedale etc, once methane gases go rogue during fracking……and of course farm vehicles use diesel therefore are the real culprits for the rise in breathing probs in children of North Yorks, so it can’t possibly be fracking activity to blame when methane rolls out? Apparently the sooty particles produced by Diesel engines are ”thought” to cause 29,000 deaths a year…………………..

    It’s so nice when the gov is intent on following EU directives on Co2 and No2, but believes fracking to be safe, in spite of the rise in cancer, especially prostate cancer, positively linked to fracking activity in the US.

    This links apparently to a new EU directive, and Mr Cameron has been so busy negotiating at the EU lately?

    Very interestingly the Labour Party has announced a u turn on the support for fracking and reports today say they are now against and will ban it. Happily at Preston protests one union leader told us that only the gas workers union support fracking and all other unions are opposed and will help in protesting against this dangerous activity…………..job done on the Labour Party, just a lot more work to do…………………….