A critical report on fracking’s impact on the UK air pollution levels has been deliberately hidden by the Conservative government for more than three years, it was revealed yesterday.

The document was quietly published last week on the 27th July, just days after the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) gave final permission for Cuadrilla to carry out fracking at Preston New Road, in Lancashire.

The report showed that 400 fracking wells would increase pollution levels, nationally, with an increase in nitrogen dioxides of around1-4% and volatile organic compounds(VOCs) increasing around1-3%.

The report also warned that: “Impacts on local and regional air quality have the potential to be substantially higher than the national level impacts, as extraction activities are likely to be highly clustered.”

Chair of the government’s Air Quality Expert Group(AQEG) and University of Leicester, Professor Paul Monks stated:
“The thing that surprised me was you think the main sources of air pollution are going to be coming from the actual process of fracking, but it is as much all the industry – diesel generators, lorries running up and down roads, and all the stuff used to support it.”

Three years on, Professor Monks states:

“That hasn’t changed. If you have any industrial process at a local level, you are going to get an impact on air quality. If you increase the amount of wells you are bound to broadly increase [pollution].”
Campaigners are rightly shocked and appalled that a critical piece of evidence was withheld and not for the first time. The scandal of the redacted DEFRA report by the government in 2015, during Lancashire’s Planning Inquiry, was another indication of ‘dirty tricks’, especially with the impacts on rural communities redacted so heavily, the report barely made sense. A challenge by Greenpeace led to the Information Commissioner ordering the government to publish the full, unredacted report.

Preston New Road Action Group, who have mounted several legal challenges against Cuadrilla and the Secretary of State over planning consent on the Fylde Coast, stated:

“Residents living close to the site at Preston New Road site are already extremely concerned about their health and wellbeing after the government’s decision last week to give consent to frack. To now find out that there has been a report in existence for three years, detailing the impacts of this decision on our air quality which was only published after the fracking decision was made is an indication that the government are absolutely determined that shale gas exploitation should go ahead, irrespective of the harm it may cause to people and the environment. It feels as though we just don’t matter.”

Claire Stephenson for Frack Free Lancashire said:

“It is simply disgraceful that yet again, democracy and justice has been withheld from our community. How can it be that scientific evidence has been deliberately buried from the public and especially during planning inquiries? This is contemptuous behavior, and sadly, one we are used to seeing from the present government, who put their industry pals before local communities.

“With asthma deaths in England and Wales rising 25% due to air pollution and a government who have already been taken to court three times – and lost – over their failure to act on illegal levels of air pollution, it’s time we held them to account.”

Steve Mason from the national campaign group, Frack Free United, said:

“You’d be forgiven in thinking there was a government conspiracy around fracking. Last week, we had the drilling by dictatorship announcement, removing local democracy from drilling applications, then fracking by decree with the ministers deciding the fate of communities, the removal of solar subsidies, and now this. We are supposed to be cleaning up our air: the next generation depends on us.

“This is yet another example of the clear and present danger fracking brings to us all.”


Notes to Editors

1. Frack Free Lancashire (FFL) is part of an expanding national movement that opposes the development and extraction of shale gas worldwide.

Our mission is to protect our environment for our children and for future generations. Taking action now will safeguard the health and well-being of our communities from the effects of air pollution, water contamination, seismic movement and toxic & radioactive waste.

The anti-fracking movement is growing in strength. Hundreds of localised groups have developed across the UK over the last five years and communities have come together in solidarity to form their own anti-fracking groups

Comments are closed.