Air Clean Up

  • Does Fracking Pollute the Air?

Does Fracking Pollute the Air?

Aug 28 2018 Read 1462 Times

It has emerged that the Conservative government buried a report into the environmental effects of fracking for three years to allow them to grant a license for the damaging practice in Lancashire last month. The report was originally delivered to the government in 2015, but was left unpublished until July 27th 2018 - just three days after the first fracking permit was granted to Cuadrilla to begin operations between Blackpool and Preston in the face of heavy local opposition.

It has long been suspected that fracking causes both local and national air pollution, but a lack of concrete information on the subject allowed the UK government to pursue plans to transition towards shale gas as a primary energy source. However, this document appears to have clearly outlined the dangers of fracking as far back as three years ago, but it has only recently seen the light of day. Environmentalists, protest groups and opposition politicians are up in arms over the revelations.

A damning report

The controversial report was initially conducted by the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) in 2015, who are an official branch of the government itself. Citing concerns that the investigation used data from the United States which may not be relevant here, the government buried the report for three years before finally publishing it late last month in a quiet corner of their site.

The report concludes that building 400 wells across the country would increase national emissions of nitrogen dioxides by as much as 4% and volatile organic compounds by as much as 3%. However, these effects would be greatly increased at local level, since pollution would be clustered more tightly around the well location and could severely hamper air quality for residents in surrounding areas.

Moral indignation

The news has been met with scorn by environmental groups and opposition politicians. “Sitting on a report until after giving fracking the go-ahead hardly inspires trust in the government,” commented Connor Schwartz of Friends of the Earth. “If research is carried out, it should be promptly released. Air pollution is already a public health crisis that cuts 40,000 lives short every year and this report is yet more evidence of why we shouldn’t start fracking.”

These are sentiments which the majority of the British public seem to share. At the most recent polls, just 18% of Britons said they supported fracking and the Lancashire site has been the subject of many grassroots protests from concerned locals. Recognising this indignation, Labour have vowed to outlaw the practice if they ever usurp the Tories in power.

Par for the course

It’s not the first time that the Conservatives have ignored the recommendations of experts in order to pursue their own agenda. Another 2015 report found that fracking would negatively impact house prices in neighbouring areas by up to 7%, but was delayed until after a landmark planning decision had been made. Another study from Newcastle University published in 2016 found the practice would result in poor air quality, but was conveniently ignored by politicians.

Tory negligence when it comes to safeguarding the environment has already seen them fall afoul of EU regulations on air quality for several years running. As a direct consequence, they have been successfully sued by environmental law firm ClientEarth twice, with a third court case possibly in the offing. Behaviour like this will do nothing to alleviate their anti-environmental reputation.

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