Government releases heavily redacted ‘secret report’ on fracking

A total of 37 out of the 48 pages in the report are fully censored and others contain significant redactions

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A 48-page “secret report” into fracking in the UK has been finally been released by the government, with a total of 34 pages entirely blacked out.

The publication of the ‘State of UK shale industry by 2020 and 2025’ report, produced by the Cabinet Office in April 2016 but never published, follows a 22-month Freedom of Information battle to uncover the hidden document by Greenpeace.

The information tribunal ordered the government to release key extracts of the report following a hearing in July this year, ruling that it would be in the public interest to disclose the findings.

The first two pages of the heavily redacted report sets out the title of the report and the background, which are followed by three pages of the executive summary that are slightly censored.

A total of 37 out of the 48 pages are fully censored and others contain significant redactions.

The unredacted paragraphs suggest the UK shale gas industry will still be in the exploration and appraisal stage by 2020.

The report adds the government is “already undertaking crucial work on communications to increase public acceptability of shale” but that it will “take time to bear fruit”.

The release of the report comes as the government has paused fracking in the UK though activists fear the moratorium could be lifted after the general election.

The heavily redacted report. Image: Greenpeace

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?”

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of trade group UK Onshore Oil and Gas, added: “This 2016 report reveals no new information of interest. It is true that shale gas development in the UK has progressed at a steady pace, although this is commensurate with the exploratory and highly regulated nature of the industry.

“Since this report was [produced], the first hydraulic fracturing since 2011 has taken place, several sites have been constructed and tested across North Nottinghamshire and multiple planning applications have been submitted for further exploratory work across Derbyshire and Lancashire.

“As with any industry that involves development, our progress has been slowed by the local planning system. This is not a unique problem to shale within the energy sector. Onshore wind and solar have met with comparable delays where applications have been filed.”

The Cabinet Office told ELN it won’t be making a statement.

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