In August 2014, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released a heavily redacted report on fracking to environmental NGO, Greenpeace UK. The “Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts” report had 63 redactions within 13 pages, including a whole section on the impact of fracking on house prices. In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a “complete revolution in transparency,” yet he has repeatedly dodged questions about the report’s release. Meanwhile Defra and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) claim the report should never have been created in the first place. Both Defra and DECC argue there is a “strong public interest in withholding the information” as it could “mislead and distort the public debate on shale gas”.
Several MPs have called for the report’s release including Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Alan Whitehead. Lancashire County Council also called on Defra to release the report ahead of an April 2015 vote on whether or not to grant energy firm Cuadrilla planning permission for two shale gas sites in the area. The Council argued a decision could only come from having access to the full report. This DeSmog UK series explores the ongoing saga and asks whether or not the government will live up to its declared need for “more transparency”.