"2 + 2 = 0" – Whitewashing the potential health effects of shale gas
Public Health England anticipates a low risk to public health from direct releases of chemicals and radioactive material if shale gas extraction is properly operated and regulated.
Yet, in a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence, its authors suggest that many of the environmental and public health problems experienced in the US would probably not apply to the UK. Unfortunately, the conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health is not substantiated by the literature.
- The AEA Technology study for the European Commission, that PHE cited six times, which said "The study identified a number of issues as presenting a high risk for people and the environment."; or
- The Chief Medical Officer of New Brunswick's study, cited four times, which said, "Some of the key findings include a …lack of information needed to assess toxicity risks; lack of accurate exposure and health data; lack of standard methods for preventing and mitigating social impacts; lack of health status studies before and during gas development; and a lack of systematic health impact assessments."; or
- A Colorado School of Public Health study, cited three times, which said, "The Human Health Risk Assessment used information from a variety of sources to conclude that natural gas processes release chemicals that are known to impact health; chemicals emitted into the air from natural gas processes are more likely to impact health than chemicals released into the water or the soil"; and
- A US Environmental Protection Agency report which was cited six times, even though it said, "At this time, the EPA has not made any judgement about the extent of exposure to these chemicals when used in hydraulic fracturing…";
- PHE didn't even bother to include the United Nations study which stated, "Hydrologic fracking may result in unavoidable environmental impacts even if unconventional gas is extracted properly, and more so if done inadequately."
- In 2010 there were 0 results;
- In 2011 there were 10 results;
- In 2012, the year of PHE's cut-off, there were 15;
- In 2013, the year after the cut-off, there were 52; and
- Just in the first four months of 2014 there have been 39 – more than 2011 and 2012 put together.
…shall endeavour to ensure that officials and authorities assist and provide guidance to the public in seeking access to information, in facilitating participation in decision-making and in seeking access to justice in environmental matters.
- The Treasury's project to deregulate environmental controls is actively supporting the fast expansion of unconventional oil and gas;
- At the same time the Treasury is forcing cuts to essential environmental services, such as the government's current review of air pollution monitoring;
- There are high-level political connections between the unconventional oil and gas operators and the present administration, giving behind-the-scenes access to decision-makers;
- The Environment Agency is being forced to reduce the time taken to issue environmental pollution permits to two weeks;
- Local planning authorities have been barred from considering pollution and health issues as part of their planning decisions;
- The Treasury are offering financial inducements, while at the same time cutting budgets, to encourage local authorities to permit shale gas developments in their areas;
- The UK recently blocked new EU environmental assessment regulations which would have provided evidence on environmental impacts to local decision-makers; and
- There is also an apparent bias in other recent reports on shale gas commissioned by the Government, including – as I argued in my own recent report – Public Health England's own review.
Our polling shows that academics are the most trusted sources of information to the public so we are looking at ways to work with the academic community to present the scientific facts around shale.
The question is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.
- Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction, A. Kibble et. al, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Public Health England, October 2013 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/phe_2013.pdf
- Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources, Lisa M. McKenzie, et. al., Science of The Total Environment, vol.1 pp.79-87, March 2012 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/mckenzie_2012.pdf
- Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective, Theo Colborn et. al., Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, vol.17 no.5 pp.1039-1056, 20th September 2011 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/colborn_2011.pdf
- Assessment of Effluent Contaminants from Three Facilities Discharging Marcellus Shale Wastewater to Surface Waters in Pennsylvania, Kyle J. Ferrar et. al., 4thMarch 2013 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/ferrar_michanowicz_2013.pdf
- Public Health England's draft report on shale gas extraction: Mistaking best practices for actual practices, Adam Law et. al., British Medical Journal, vol.348, 17th April 2014 – http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2728
- Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe, Mark Broomfield, AEA Technology, 10th August 2012 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/aeat_2012.pdf
- Chief Medical Officer of Health's Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick, Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, New Brunswick Department of Health, September 2012 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/new_brunswick_2012.pdf
- Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County Colorado (2nd draft), Roxana Witter et. al., Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, February 2011 – http://www.garfield-county.com/environmental-health/battlement-mesa-health-impact-assessment-draft2.aspx
- Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources ‐ Progress Report, United States Environmental Protection Agency, December 2012 – http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/hf-report20121214.pdf
- Gas fracking: Can we safely squeeze the rocks?, Pascal Peduzzi, Ruth Harding, UNEP, November 2012 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/unep_geas_2012.pdf
- Pubmed – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
- The Aarhus Convention: An Implementation Guide (Second Edition), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, April 2013 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/ukgov/unece_2013.pdf
- Challenges of Unconventional Shale Gas Development: So What's the Rush, Bernard D. Goldstein, Elizabeth Ferrell Bjerke, Jill Kriesky, Notre Dame Journal Of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, vol.27 no.1, 13th April 2013 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/goldstein_bjerke_2013.pdf
- Air quality in the Industrial Heartland of Alberta, Canada and potential impacts on human health, Isobel J. Simpson et. al., Atmospheric Environment, vol.81 pp.702-709, December 2013 – http://fraw/files/extreme/simpson_2013.pdf
- Hydraulically fractured: Unconventional gas and anthropology, Kim de Rijke, Anthropology Today, vol.29 no.2 pp.13-17, April 2013 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/de_rijke_2013-2.pdf
- Guardian On-line: Owen Paterson held urgent meeting for fracking boss, documents show, Friday 21st March 2014 –http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/21/owen-paterson-urgent-meeting-fracking-cuadrilla-lord-browne
- Section 4, Investing in Britain's future, Cm8669, HM Treasury, June 2013 –https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/209279/PU1524_IUK_new_template.pdf
- Guardian On-line: Air pollution monitoring stations face closure as government looks to cut costs, Thursday 22nd August 2013 –http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/22/air-pollution-monitoring-stations-shut
- Review of Local Air Quality Management in England, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, July 2013 – https://consult.defra.gov.uk/communications/https-consult-defra-gov-uk-laqm_review
- "Behind every picture lies a story" – statistical reality versus PR-hype within the political project of unconventional gas in Britain, Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations, 25th July 2013 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/musings/2013/20130725-behind_every_picture_lies_a_story.html
- Guardian On-line: Emails reveal UK helped shale gas industry manage fracking opposition, Friday 17th January 2014 –http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/17/emails-uk-shale-gas-fracking-opposition
- Onshore oil and gas exploratory operations: technical guidance – Consultation Draft, Environment Agency, August 2013 – https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/file/2582905
- Planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas, Department for Communities and Local Government, July 2013 –https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224238/Planning_practice_guidance_for_onshore_oil_and_gas.pdf
- Harnessing the potential of the UK's natural resources: a fiscal regime for shale gas, HM Treasury, December 2013 –https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/harnessing-the-potential-of-the-uks-natural-resources-a-fiscal-regime-for-shale-gas/harnessing-the-potential-of-the-uks-natural-resources-a-fiscal-regime-for-shale-gas
- Local councils to receive millions in business rates from shale gas developments, Prime Ministers Office, 13th January 2014 – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/local-councils-to-receive-millions-in-business-rates-from-shale-gas-developments
- Guardian On-line: UK defeats European bid for fracking regulations, Tuesday 14th January 2014 – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/14/uk-defeats-european-bid-fracking-regulations
- A critical review of Public Health England's report, "Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction – draft for comment, Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations, April 2014 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/archive/phe_shale_gas_and_health_report-critical_analysis.pdf
- Correspondence and meetings between the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil, UKOOG, Centrica and IGas, DECC, 15th January 2014 –https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/correspondence-and-meetings-between-the-office-of-unconventional-gas-and-oil-ukoog-centrica-and-igas
- Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado, Lisa M. McKenzie et. al., Environmental Health Perspectives, 28th January 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/mckenzie_guo_2014.pdf
- Understanding exposure from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to the test, David Brown et. al., Reviews on Environmental Health, vol.29, 29th March 2014 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/brown_lewis_2014.pdf
- A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change, Environmental Health Perspectives/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US Centers for Disease Control, 2010 –http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/HHCC_Final_508.pdf
- An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations, Theo Colborn et. al., Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, vol.20 no.1 pp.86-105, January 2014 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/colborn_2014.pdf
- Maternal Exposure to Ambient Levels of Benzene and Neural Tube Defects among Offspring: Texas, 1999-2004, Philip J. Lupo et. al., Environmental Health Perspectives, vol.119 no.3 pp.397-402, March 2011 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/lupo_2010.pdf
- Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development, Dana R. Caulton et. al., PNAS (early edition), 14th April 2014 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/caulton_2014.pdf
- Air Impacts of Increased Natural Gas Acquisition, Processing, and Use: A Critical Review, Christopher W. Moore et. al., Science of the Total Environment (undated preprint), March 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/moore_2014.pdf
- Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania, Nathaniel R. Warner et. al., Environmental Science and Technology, vol.47 no.20 pp.11849-11857, 2nd October 2013 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/warner_2013.pdf
- A Critical Review of the Risks to Water Resources from Unconventional Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, Avner Vengosh et. al., Environmental Science and Technology (preprint), 7th March 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/vengosh_2014.pdf
- Analysis of Reserve Pit Sludge From Unconventional Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing and Drilling Operations for the Presence of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM), Alisa L. Rich, Ernest C. Crosby, New Solutions, vol.23 no.1 pp.117-135, March 2013 –http://www.fraw.org.uk/files/extreme/rich_2013.pdf
- Extreme energy and public health: How the Government engineered the denial of the health impacts of unconventional oil and gas, ecolonomics journal no.15, Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations, 5th May 2014 – http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/ecolonomics/2014/ecolonomics_15-extreme_energy_and_public_health.shtml
- Porter v. Magill  UKHL 67 – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldjudgmt/jd011213/magill-1.htm
Published in 'The Ecologist', 6th May 2014, under the title, "Shale gas and public health – the whitewash exposed."
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