The UK’s Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs has been forced to publish details of the heavily redacted report on fracking, revealing the full extent of the negative impact of shale gas extraction on local communities.
The redacted sections contain information about the expected effects on house prices, damage to landscape, noise and traffic levels and water pollution.
The internal document, called 'Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impact's, was originally published last year with multiple sections concealed. Defra has now released the full details following a request under environmental information laws.
According to the report, house prices in the vicinity of shale gas exploration sites could fall by up to seven per cen,t while rents could increase due to the higher amount of people coming to work on the developments.
The study also suggested that properties within a five-mile radius of the exploration sites may face additional insurance costs due to the risks of explosion.
Among the redacted details were considerations of surface water contamination and its possible health effects, as well as consequences for water resource availability, aquatic habitats, ecosystem and water quality.
The report cited evidence from the US that residents near fracking sites ‘may experience deafening noise’ as well as light pollution that affects sleeping patterns and noxious odours from venting gases that harm local air quality.
The document stated that shale gas developments ‘may transform a previously pristine and quiet natural region, bringing increased industrialization’.
'As a result rural community businesses that rely on clean air, land, water, and/or a tranquil environment may suffer losses from this change such as agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation,' the report said.
Moreover, waste water from fracking operations could place a burden on existing treatment facilities.
The study acknowledged that fracking operations were likely to create new jobs, but warned that the majority of the highly skilled positions will go to workers from outside the local area.
The study also said that while domestic shale gas production could reduce emissions by replacing imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), if that displaced gas was used elsewhere it would push up greenhouse gases globally.
A Defra spokesman commented on the release: "This document was drawn up as a draft internal discussion paper. It is not analytically robust, has not been peer-reviewed and remains incomplete.
"It does not contain any new data or evidence and many of the conclusions amount to unsubstantiated conjecture which do not represent the views of officials or ministers."
The UK government is supporting the development of shale gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing in the hope it will replicate the US economic boom, creating new jobs and reduce reliance on gas imports.
The method, however, has many opponents, who fear it could stall the development of renewable energy. Further concerns about the fracking process - which requires water and sand to be pumped into the ground to fracture rock and release gas - are that it could trigger earthquakes and pollute water resources.
The full version of the report was only published after councillors in Lancashire rejected two applications from energy firm Cuadrilla to frack for shale gas in the region.
"An open and honest debate on fracking cannot be had if the Government hides the evidence, so I'm pleased they have been forced by public pressure into releasing the report in full,” said Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, who has campaigned for full details of the report to be made public.
"The report shows exactly what the Government were trying to hide; that fracking is hugely damaging to our environment, to our health and to our climate. The report also shows unsurprisingly that house prices in areas close to fracking sites are destined to fall".
Studies suggested that communities would face increased congestion on roads, with between 16 and 51 vehicle movements a day, with as many as 250 lorry trips on the busiest days, the report said.
In addition to the effects on house prices and rents, the developments may put additional pressure on local schools and medical services.