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UK Gov't Delayed Fracking Report to Influence Lancashire Shale Gas Vote

© East News / Science Photo LibraryFracking drill rig
Fracking drill rig - Sputnik International
The UK government attempted to influence a decision by the Lancashire County Council on shale gas drilling by delaying the publication of a damning report by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Greenpeace said Friday.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) In 2015, Lancashire councilors voted against two applications by the UK-based Cuadrilla Resources oil and gas company to drill for shale gas in the area. DEFRA's Draft Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts paper, which outlines a number of environmental risks posed by fracking, was published on July 1 that year, just two days after the vote. A redacted version, leaving out many negative assessments of fracking, was published in 2014.

Emails obtained by Greenpeace under a freedom of information request indicate that then Minister of State for Energy Andrea Leadsom attempted to time the release aiming to minimize its damage on the fracking industry, withholding publication until after the local council vote.

“[Leadsom] suggests we do nothing before Cuadrilla’s planning decision if we have time… if the Minister should be aware or if we expect any media pick up from the FOI, particularly given her sensitivity to shale comms at the moment,” one email, sent by Leadsom’s secretary to the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil, reads.

Leadsom's office then replied stating DEFRA had agreed to shift publication to July 1 and still conform to a 35-day window left by an Information Commissioner ruling ordering the publication on June 18. DEFRA also agreed to publish the report late in the day in a move aimed at lowering media exposure, as explained by Greenpeace.

"Defra will lead on knocking the report down," the Department of Energy & Climate Change wrote to the minister.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a technique of extracting shale gas and oil by injecting pressurized toxic liquid into the ground.

Opponents of fracking argue the process poses numerous health, safety and environmental risks, including the potential for fracking fluids and waste to leak into water as well as the large volume of water used.

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