Government fails to produce report into controversial fracking

The Government has been accused of “contempt for democracy” as it  failed to publish a report which calls into question the viability of fracking.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) ruled that the Government must publish parts of a 2016 report on the state of the UK’s fracking industry by 5pm last Monday.

Kirby Misperton, Pictured Anti-fracking poster in the village of Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, North Yorkshire. Photo: James Hardisty.

Kirby Misperton, Pictured Anti-fracking poster in the village of Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, North Yorkshire. Photo: James Hardisty.

But the report has still not been released.

It follows a freedom of information request made by Unearthed, an investigative journalism project run by Greenpeace, in January last year.

The Cabinet Office initially rejected the request, saying it could “call into question the [fracking] industry’s viability” and was an internal government document exempt from the Environmental Information Regulations.

But the ICO ruled it must be released in November.

Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “The Government are ignoring the courts in order to avoid scrutiny of this dangerous and dirty industry.

“We’ve been here before, in 2015, when the government fought tooth and nail to hide their own assessment of fracking’s potential risks from the public.

“That report talked about water contamination, falling house prices and additional insurance costs for people unfortunate enough to live near fracking sites.

“But even when they were trying to suppress that document, the Government didn’t go so far as to ignore a court order.

“We don’t know what further revelations are in the report they’re still hiding, but the Government are clearly very keen that the public don’t find out, which makes it all the more important that we do.”

The controversial practice of fracking was banned by Boris Johnson at the start of the month, after a series of earthquakes including in Lancashire in August.

Fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.

Supporters argue it represents a huge opportunity to reduce the UK’s growing reliance on overseas energy imports with an area covering Yorkshire and Lancashire known as the Bowland Shale described as the biggest shale field in the world.

At the time of the ban the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said fracking was “paused unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here”.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson have both come out against the method.

Jon Trickett, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Hemsworth candidate, said: “The Tories’ failure to publish this crucial report on fracking shows contempt for democracy and serves as a stark warning for what lies ahead if Boris Johnson is re-elected.”

Six companies in Yorkshire previously had a license to carry out fracking exploratory work. Work was the most advanced in Kirby Misperton before a financial review led to test work being put on hold.

The Cabinet Office and the Conservative Party were approached for comment.