Energy firm Cuadrilla, which suspended fracking in Lancashire after several tremors in August, is hoping to convince the Government the practice is safe. Cuadrilla has said it is working to address those concerns and hoped the prospective Bowland gas resource could be further appraised and developed. Both the Government and Cuadrilla continue to say natural gas will play an important role in providing energy for the UK for decades to come.
‘Black wall’ of redacted pages as UK fracking report finally released
People will wonder why there is so much the government wants to conceal, says Greenpeace
The only page of the report not censored at all is the cover. Photograph: Cabinet Office
The Whitehall report on the UK shale gas sector emerged on Monday after a years-long battle to uncover the hidden documents – but with three quarters of its pages blacked out. The 48-page report, seen by the Guardian, includes 37 pages that are entirely blacked out and only one – the front cover – that was left uncensored. The remaining paragraphs outline plans to help frackers by countering the public’s rising public opposition to the industry with a government-led campaign to develop a “pro-shale narrative”.
The report, written in 2016, was finally released after an information tribunal ruled that it would be in the public interest to disclose its findings. Greenpeace has fought a long legal battle with the government over the suppression of the document.
Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, said: “Looking at this black wall of redacted pages, people will be wondering why there’s so little the government is willing to reveal about fracking and so much it wants to hide. “If ministers have really dropped their support for this polluting industry, why not publish this report in full and come clean about what’s been going on behind closed doors for years?”
Greenpeace said the Conservative government should ban fracking permanently after it called an immediate halt to drilling in England this month. The government said it would not agree to any future fracking “until compelling new evidence is provided” that proves fracking could be safe, amid concerns over ground tremors caused by drilling.
“People would feel much more confident about the Conservatives’ pledge on fracking if they used the overwhelming evidence of its unacceptable risks to people and our environment to introduce a permanent ban, and put this industry to bed once and for all,” Newsom said.
Fracking also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas. Environmental campaigners argue that fracking should be banned because it increases carbon dioxide emissions and causes air and water pollution, alongside ground tremors.
Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said the Conservative party has “bent over backwards to serve the interests of big business, especially the oil and gas industry” while ignoring the voices of local people.
The report was released to Unearthed, the investigations arm of Greenpeace, after a lengthy battle between the campaigners and the Cabinet Office.
Greenpeace uncovered some of the report’s findings last year through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request but the campaigners were barred by Cabinet Office officials from obtaining the full report.
The FoI found that the shale gas industry was unlikely to achieve the exaggerated economic benefits promised by its proponents due to strong local opposition to fracking, with only 4% of the UK’s potential shale projects likely to go ahead in the face of strong opposition.
Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Oil and Gas said the case for UK shale gas development “is stronger than ever” because the UK is relying more heavily on gas from Qatar and Russia.
“This report plainly shows that there is still a lot of work left for us to do, which is what our members will be focusing on in the coming months,” he said.
The government’s own data revealed last month that public opposition to shale gas fracking has climbed to record highs while support for the shale industry has slumped to the lowest levels since records began six years ago.
The Cabinet Office declined to comment.
BAILIFFS were accused of carrying out the “inhumane” eviction of an anti-fracking protest camp in Lancashire on Tuesday. Activists at New Hope camp in Preston New Road claimed they were “dragged from their beds half-naked” on the coldest night of the year. The camp’s residents said they were given “no warning” before the eviction at 6am by employees of private bailiff company Able Enforcements, the Lancashire Constabulary and local demolition firm Pete Marquis.
“I woke up to the sound of bailiffs, dogs and shouting,” anti-fracking activist Ellie Santos told the Morning Star.
“I saw my friend being dragged out of her bed half-naked strapped to a body-board. We were told to get out immediately.”
Ms Santos had been living in the camp near Blackpool in protest since it was built on private land in March 2017.
The activist said she was given just a few minutes to grab her possessions by the bailiffs, who seemed to be “enjoying themselves” as they evicted her and New Hope’s four other residents.
“They were taking selfies, making faces and laughing,” Ms Santos alleged.
Bristol-based firm Able Investigations, an enforcement agency, stated that the eviction was carried out without the need for a court order under common-law rights to remove “trespassers” from private land. But residents said they had previously been given permission to camp on the land by its owner and were never informed otherwise.
About 49 Lancashire Constabulary officers, who were not permitted on the site and stood outside, were also criticised by activists and local anti-fracking campaigners. “The treatment is what we’ve come to expect,” activist Fargo McCann said. “We’ve seen time and time again that the police are biased towards the shale gas industry. “They never did their duty to facilitate peaceful protest — they’ve just removed it.”
Frack Free Lancashire campaigner Claire Stephenson told the Star that protesters had faced years of “harassment” from police officers while trying to rid the region of fracking.
“The police have been appalling,” she said. “Yesterday I had to turn my back on them because they were laughing at protesters and sniggering — there’s no professionalism left.”
Steve Wood from Able Investigations disputed activists’ claims that unreasonable force was used or that bailiffs took selfies during the incident. “As far as we are concerned each officer conducted themselves in a professional manner under unpleasant conditions,” he told the Star in an email.
Ms Stephenson said that the Lancashire community would continue to stand with the activists of New Hope. “We will stand together with our friends, who have purposely been made homeless following this inhumane eviction process and will work together as a community to assist however we can.”
Lancashire Constabulary stressed that the eviction was Able Investigations’ operation and there was no collaboration with police.