Belfast Telegraph

Fracking: Heavily-censored report claims drilling caused a fall in US house values

By David Hughes

An internal Government document has found that house prices in some rural areas of the US and Canada affected by fracking dropped by up to 14 per cent.

A study of properties near a well in Pittsburgh, USA, found a 5.6 per cent reduction in house prices within a mile of shale gas wells – just about the same as prices in Northern Ireland were expected to rise this year.

However, the "impacts relate to houses dependent on well water which may not be comparable to UK", the analysis by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Many parts of the official analysis – titled Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts – had several key sections blacked out when it was published in response to a request under environmental information laws. Ministers have been accused of having "something to hide" over the impact of fracking. Green MP Caroline Lucas said the Government should be "straight with the British public" about the impact of the controversial process.

The report refers to 2010 findings about the situation in Texas which indicated that properties worth more than $250,000 (£149,000) located within 1,000 feet of a well saw their values fall by between 3 per cent and 14 per cent.

Findings from a study of property prices near sour gas wells and flaring oil batteries in Alberta, Canada, found a reduction in house prices of between 4 per cent to 7 per cent within 2.5 miles of the wells, although this "may not be comparable in a UK context".

A 2012 study of properties in Pennsylvania found a price rise in homes near a well if the house had a commercially-piped water supply, but there is not enough data to "disentangle positive impacts" such as lease payments to homeowners living near wells and higher rental prices, from the negative impacts such as noise and pollution.

The document indicates that three further paragraphs about the impact on property prices were redacted, or blacked out. Assessments of the impacts on house prices and local services were heavily redacted in the draft report published under the Environmental Information Regulations.

Ms Lucas called for the report to be published in full and said: "This is a report that purports to be about looking at the impacts of shale gas exploitation on rural economies and yet huge amounts of it have been redacted. Were it not so serious, it would almost be comical".

A Government spokeswoman said: "There is no evidence that house prices have been affected in over half a century of oil and gas exploration in the UK or evidence that this would be the case with shale."

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