Fracking could hit house prices, worsen traffic congestion, affect water quality, and may even end up increasing carbon emissions, according to a previously redacted report published in full.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has released its study into the impacts of fracking today, following a year-long transparency campaign by Greenpeace, which culminated in a ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

As well as raising red flags about fracking’s negative impacts, the report also questions some of the key arguments about job creation and economic benefits put forward by ministers and the fracking industry.

Commenting on the evidence gathered in the report, Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said, “This report gives the lie to the shale lobby and ministers’ claim that there’s no evidence of negative impacts for fracking whilst questioning many of the arguments made in favour of it. It’s a complete vindication of Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Cuadrilla’s bid to frack in their region, and provides other councils with compelling reasons to do the same.”

“New York state has just made its fracking ban permanent. The only sensible course of action for the government is to declare a fracking moratorium and establish a truly independent inquiry to look at the wealth of available evidence about shale gas impacts.

“Sneaking out this study late on the day of the Davies Commission announcement is further proof, if needed, of how desperate ministers are to bury evidence of fracking’s potential impacts on our communities and the environment.”

On climate

The report says fracking ‘could help reduce net greenhouse emissions associated with imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in particular’, but ‘if LNG or other fossil fuel displaced from the UK is used elsewhere, that could lead to an increase in global GHG emissions.’

On house prices

The study acknowledges evidence of impacts on property prices is ‘quite thin’ in the literature, but concludes – ‘There could potentially be a range of 0 to 7% reductions in property values within 1 mile of an extraction site to reflect the impacts’. It also warns that properties within a 1-5 mile radius of fracking sites ‘may also incur an additional cost of insurance to cover losses in case of explosion on the site’.

On jobs

The report questions whether rural communities will really benefit from jobs. It concludes, “What is less clear is how sustainable the shale gas investments will be in the future and whether rural communities have the right mix of skills to take advantage of the new jobs and wider benefits on offer. Evidence from the USA suggests this is not necessarily the case, with a high proportion of expenditures associated with drilling being made outside of the local rural economy.”

On the local economy

The report concludes that the ‘long term economic impacts to rural communities is uncertain and will largely depend upon how revenue raised during the shale gas boom is reinvested within the local economy’. It also warns that ‘the international evidence on this [benefits] is weak’.

Overall the impacts are likely to be mixed with short-term positive economic gains from employment and energy that need to be balanced against the costs that may affect certain groups, such as businesses involved in tourism, local house price impacts and increased congestion.

On traffic

An estimated 14 to 51 truck movements to a site each day over a 32 to 145 week period ‘could have an adverse impact on traffic congestion, noise or air quality depending on existing roads, traffic and air quality’.

On water

“Risk that even if contaminated surface water does not directly impact drinking water supplies, it can affect human health indirectly through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock, or agricultural products.”

It also says, “Overall the potential impacts on water resource availability, aquatic habitats and ecosystems and water quality is uncertain.”

And wastewater from fracking ‘could place a burden on existing wastewater treatment infrastructure capacity, and require further or new investment’. Though this could be mitigated by ‘on-site treatment and recycling’.

On local services

The report concludes, “It is unclear whether this level of investment will be sufficient to meet the additional demand if new schools or hospitals are needed to ensure service provision for existing rural communities is maintained.”