The government has been accused of ‘dirty tricks’ and showing contempt for democracy after suppressing a controversial report on fracking.
Greenpeace and Fylde anti-fracking campaigners say the government deliberately withheld the release of a damaging DEFRA fracking report in 2014 to prevent Lancashire county councillors from scrutinising it ahead of the crucial vote on shale gas drilling
The new attack comes after a series of ministerial emails was finally released following a Freedom of Information request from Greenpeace.
They reveal that ministers conspired to delay and discredit the report by publishing it days after the County Hall vote on a busy news day and having the environment department, which commissioned the study, “lead on knocking the report down”.
Another email, a draft briefing for David Cameron, also reveals the government was preparing to defend itself against accusations of a “double standard” between the planning regimes for fracking and onshore wind.
The sections of the report the government attempted to hide highlight potentially damaging impacts of fracking near shale gas exploration sites including pollution, falling house prices, and damage to tourism and agriculture.
Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council’s lead on planning and environment, said: “It is dirty tricks of the highest order – a real eye opener.
“It shows complete contempt for local democracy. They were hell bent on fracking happening anyway, whatever we said in Lancashire. The double standard [between wind and fracking applications] is jaw dropping.”
Barbara Richardson, from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said: “This feels like another betrayal from a government that has acted all along like a stooge for the fracking industry. Ministers have thrown transparency, democracy, and basic decency out of the window to impose their pet project on communities that have roundly rejected it. How can we possibly trust their claims that fracking is safe when they’re hell-bent on hiding the evidence? Rural communities from Lancashire to Yorkshire will take notice.”
Greenpeace UK campaigner Hannah Martin said: “These dirty tricks make a mockery of any government claim to be on the side of local people. It’s clear that ministers are fully aware of the glaring double standards of championing local communities when they’re against wind, and overriding them when they’re against fracking.
“Ministers should publish the correspondence on fracking that DEFRA has been hiding for more than a year. This is an opportunity for May’s government to make a clean break with the past and prove they can be trusted.”
A government spokesman said: “We complied fully with the Information Commissioner’s ruling that we publish the report within the established timescales.
“As the material made clear, we do not believe this internal document – which was incomplete and had not been peer-reviewed – was sufficiently analytically robust to inform policy-making.”