“Public Health is an essential aspect of any research study on fracking,” states Dr Aedín McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI). “Whereas globally, attention is focussed on the environmental impacts of fracking, health does not depend on a clean environment alone; social and economic factors are also important, e.g. living conditions, a feeling of belonging, social justice, community and culture, social services, good jobs and fair wages. A major study on shale gas development from New Brunswick* recommends the submission of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which includes all the above factors, on proposed shale gas projects.
The EPA proposed Terms of Reference for an extended study on fracking shows a lack of concern for Public Health. There is no representative from the Department of Health on the Steering Committee to oversee the study and no proposal to include a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in the Terms of Reference. The New Brunswick report clearly shows the importance of having Public Health as a central element in any study on the impacts of fracking.
Whereas an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is proposed, we say that this is not enough. An EIA assumes that if regulations are put in place to protect the environment, then health will also be protected. Clean air and water are indeed important for health. However, only a HIA will include study of social and economic impacts, equally important for community well-being.
We know from the exploratory company Tamboran Resources what is planned for Leitrim in the first phase of shale gas extraction2. 50,000 acres of rural Leitrim to be industrialised; 60 x 7-acre mining pads constructed with up to 24 wells drilled and fracked per pad, 1,500 wells in total over 15 years; enormous volumes of water used and wastewater produced; access roads, heavy traffic and gas-pipe networks throughout the area.
GEAI demands that the EPA research study includes a Health Impact Assessment using this scenario of gas extraction. The EPA has invited submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference, with a deadline of 8th March. We call on all concerned citizens to join with us and to send submissions to the EPA demanding such a Health Impact Assessment.”
* Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick. (September 2012)