Greenpeace appeals to Information Commissioner over redacted fracking report, Argues government is misleading public by refusing to publish findings of report on how shale gas could impact house prices by Jessica Shankleman, March 11, 2015, Business Green
The UK’s transparency watchdog is set to rule on whether the public has the right to see the full version of a heavily redacted government report on fracking that examined the potential impact of shale gas exploration on house prices and rural communities.
BusinessGreen has learnt Greenpeace has appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in an attempt to force Defra to publish the redacted details of a report entitled Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, which was released last year following a Freedom of Information Request.
The version released to the public included 63 passages that were blacked out, including key sections on the effects on house prices and the social impacts of fracking. “Evidence from the literature review suggests that rural communities face three major social impacts associated with shale gas drilling activities, which are set out below. REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED,” the report stated.
The government has repeatedly ducked calls from Labour and the Green Party to publish the report in full, with ministers arguing the contents could mislead the public over the impacts of fracking. In a parliamentary debate earlier this year, Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd also hinted that Defra should not have commissioned the report in the first place, and that the report had been commissioned by a junior member of Defra. A Defra spokesman told BusinessGreen that the report had never been intended for publication [Like the Yukon Party just pulled?] and that the research included in the file was not robust.
However, Greenpeace argues the government is misleading the public by refusing to publish the full details and accused the government of trying to bury information that could undermine public support for shale gas.
“Ministers should end this transparency travesty, publish the report in full, and give people a chance to make up their own minds about fracking,” said Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Louise Hutchins.
Lancashire County Council, which is currently weighing up the merits of a planning application from shale gas developer Cuadrilla, has also demanded the government publish the full version of the report as the findings could influence its final decision, which has been delayed until the eve of the general election. The Council passed a unanimous motion urging the government to release the report in full “in the interests of transparency”.
Greenpeace also argued that the refusal by government to publish the full report goes against the prime minister’s commitment to transparency. In a 2011 article David Cameron announced a ‘complete revolution in transparency’. Arguing that ‘we need more of it’, he added: “Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats.”
But Hutchins said the report makes a mockery of Cameron’s commitment. “The government is acting like a judge who’s pressing the jury to take a certain verdict whilst hiding exhibit A behind his back,” he said. “It makes a mockery of David Cameron’s commitment to transparency and is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of people living in communities potentially affected by fracking.
“Authorities in Lancashire and elsewhere in the country are about to make crucial decisions on whether to allow this controversial industry in their area. They should be given access to all the available evidence, not have it cherry-picked for them by the government.”
A spokesman for the ICO confirmed it had received the complaint from Greenpeace and said it was currently considering the details. “We are unable to speculate on how long it will take to resolve this complaint as it depends on a number of factors, some of which are outside our control,” he added. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
UK: Frac’ing ‘threat’ wiped £535,000 off home’s value; Valuation Office Agency (sets values for tax purposes): “any industrial or commercial development near homes, potentially including fracking, could reduce their value”
“Our examination leads me to believe that the Council of Canadian Academies’ expert frack panel ‘cherry-picked’ reports on the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’). It is also apparent that many of the 428 documents cited in the CCA report on fracking were not peer reviewed, contrary to what the report claims. This is unprincipled and unconscionable stuff,” says Will Koop, Coordinator of the B.C. Tap Water Alliance.
“The cumulative evidence from an increasing number of peer-reviewed, scientific studies and commentaries on the harms from unconventional fracking, as cited, for instance, in PSE’s library collection, have been instrumental in re-shaping political decisions in the United States and Canada concerning fracking’s social and environmental license. In association, the growing evidence of these harms may strongly suggest why the British Columbia government has been withholding final report studies on fracking and health effects since at least May 2014, including a now two-year old, outdated literature review report on fracking. In relation, this ‘withholding’ may be linked to why the BC government recently cut funding for an 8-year-old watchdog organization, the North East Oil and Gas Health Advisory Committee, “a driving force behind the government’s health risk assessment” concerning unconventional gas and oil operations in northeast BC.” ]