Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

Medical journal of australia denounces safety of fracking

On March 2014 the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published a report entitled: “Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia’s energy future.”

REDCROSS

In the report the MJA warn of the scientific research already undertaken that highlights the health risks that Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction brings to communities stating:

Fears over the potential health implications of hydraulic fracturing led over 100 medical practitioners to request the Obama administration to halt the construction of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the basis that “[t]here is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale … may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil”. There are also environmental, social and psychological factors that have more indirect effects on health, and important social justice implications arising from the distribution of health burdens.
While there is a dearth of conclusive evidence about the health and environmental effects of fracturing, there is an emerging body of evidence on the areas of greatest potential risk and uncertainty in regards to water, air and social pathways. When taken into consideration along with concerns about the level of fugitive emissions and the potential effect on the development of renewable energy, these health concerns make unconventional gas a doubtful saviour for Australia’s energy needs.

Furthermore, MJA continue by warning that despite attempts to improve the safety of the overall process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the process itself cannot be made safe:

While the risk of well casing failure, spills and other accidents cannot be dismissed,these can be mitigated (though not removed entirely) by proper regulation and the move towards “safer” fracturing fluids. However, although any exposure would likely be to heavily diluted chemicals, the toxicological effects of some chemicals in their dilute form are not well understood. In particular, chemicals affecting the endocrine system — such as ethoxylated 4-nonylphenol, which has been used in Australian operations6 — can affect humans at extremely low quantities.

This sentiment has already been echoed by world respected medical journals the British Medical Journal, and the Lancet.

The MJA also draw attention to an all too often overlooked aspect of the process – air pollution:

Unconventional gas extraction is responsible for air pollution from diesel fumes from infrastructure development and stationary equipment, gas processing, venting and flaring. Fugitive methane emissions can catalyse development of ground level ozone and combine with PM to form smog, both of which contribute to respiratory disease, among other health effects, and damage to crops — gas- field haze is a well known effect in the US, with such pollution capable of travelling substantial distances. Shale gas extraction can also involve the flaring or venting of “associated” gases, which can become hazardous air pollutants.

The report goes further, and highlights negative social impacts that can in turn bring detriment to human health, such as the increased cost of living, high levels of alcohol and drug use, mental health issues and violence.

In a damning condemnation of the social injustices brought about by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the MJA state:

Inequity can be an indirect cause of ill health, and the development of unconventional gas resources threatens to distribute health burdens in an unfair way. Most of the potential health hazards are likely to be felt by groups such as the elderly, children and the poor because of their vulnerability to the hazards involved, those living in rural, agricultural and Indigenous communities because of the location of operations, and future generations — the same groups liable to bear significant costs of climate change — while the financial benefits will accrue to the predominantly foreign owners of the resources.

Before continuing with the real life threat that climate change will bring, a problem that will be exacerbated by methane emissions:

A further health issue raised by any proposed energy source is its contribution to climate change, which has the potential to reverse gains in global health, for example by exacerbating illnesses and causing deaths through undernutrition, extreme weather conditions and disease.

In conclusion, as a result of negative implications both social and environmental the MJA warn against Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction as a means to secure energy for the future of Australia:

It is clear that Australia must quickly move beyond its reliance on coal for health and environmental reasons. However, when taking into consideration the uncertainties over health risks, the unfavourable comparisons with other energy options, the climate risks associated with fugitive emissions, the moral obligations Australia faces as a gas exporter, the potential displacement of renewables and doubts raised over the claim that gas will prove to be a cheap energy option, the scale is firmly tipped against the further development of unconventional gas.

The MJA report has added to a long list of reports which warn against the risks associated with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process which is earmarked for County Fermanagh.

Our citizens must ask themselves, in the face of mounting scientific evidence, that once the process arrives within our county’s borders, how can we expect to avoid the social, environmental and economic costs incurred, knowing that communities world wide have failed to avoid them for themselves.

If you wish to read the MJA report in full, click here.

Ohio fracking fire witnesses ask for greater chemical disclosure

A fire erupted last week on a frack-pad in Ohio State. The accident was finally contained after cross-county support from emergency services, who had to handle the hazardous flaming chemicals, without knowing what they were in the first place. As a result, efforts to put the fire out were hampered by the lack of available knowledge.

The Ohio Citizen reports:

The fire at the Monroe County well site on June 28 spread to 20 nearby trucks on the drilling pad, and required additional firefighters from six counties to contain it. Melissa English, development director with Ohio Citizen Action, says first responders were probably unaware of the chemicals involved in the accident because the only ones listed were ‘condensate and produced water.’

‘There were more chemicals on-site at the time of the fire, because they had started fracking by that time,’ says English. ‘They had started actually stimulating the well to produce oil and gas, which they hadn’t done at the time the hazardous chemical inventory was filed last year.’

To read the press release in full, click here.

Australia: loophole to remove environmental impact study from fracking

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that in Australia, an amendment to existing legislation, which is up for public consultation, will provide a loophole within which unconventional shale gas extraction can take place without a full Environmental Impact Study.

The result of which would allow fracking closer to local residences.

FRACKING

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The government plans to modify the State Environmental Planning Policy in a way that may allow AGL to carry out hydraulic fracturing – usually referred to fracking – close to homes in the Gloucester area of the Hunter region without completing a full environmental impact study.
A similar large-scale drilling project planned for western Sydney was ruled out in 2013, partly as a result of its proximity to homes near Liverpool, Campbelltown and Camden.
Local opponents say fracking of existing wells, or the drilling of new ones nearby, can have unforeseen consequences on aquifers as the 1000-metre deep wells intersect with fault lines.

They say the proposed amendment, open for public comment until July 16, appears specifically designed to enable AGL to do exploratory fracking at four gas wells near family homes without an EIS.
Under existing rules, since the proposed wells are within three kilometres of an existing one, they are deemed a state-significant development requiring an EIS. The rule change, however, will measure the three kilometres from the geometric centre of the new wells, not from the nearest one.
“The absurdity, if this goes ahead, is that you could design a set of wells in such a way that some of the wells you propose to frack could be within just a few metres of existing wells,” said John Watts, a spokesman for Groundswell Gloucester. “It is the closeness of the wells that could cause a problem, not the closeness to the centre point.”
Fracking involves the injection of a mix of sand and chemicals under high pressure to create small fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas to migrate to the well. The closeness of wells to homes in the Camden area was one reason the government curtailed AGL’s CSG plans in south-west Sydney.
“The government considered the amendment to be minor,” a spokesman for Planning Minister Pru Goward said. “The amendment creates certainty for industry and the community” by removing “ambiguous” wording in the policy, he said.

To read the article in full, click here.

Former state health employees forced silent on fracking

It has been reported by news outlet NPR that former Pennsylvania State Health employees were instructed to ignore enquiries from the public in relation to the negative health effects related to unconventional shale gas development.

GAGGED

Staff were instructed, that in the event of a member of the public calling in regards to a shale gas related ailment, the enquiry was to be forwarded to a supervisor who would handle the case from there on in. However, many members of the public would phone bad, annoyed that they had received no follow up.

There is also evidence to suggest that the problem occurs in other states outside of Pennsylvania.

NPR reports:

npr

Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.

One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years.

Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that.

Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting.

In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”

Companies have drilled more than 6,000 wells into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing state for natural gas production in America.

Amid the record-breaking development, public health advocates have expressed concern that Pennsylvania has not funded research to examine the potential health impacts of the shale boom.

Doctors have said that some people who live near natural gas development sites – including well pads and compressor stations – have suffered from skin rashes, nausea, nosebleeds and other ailments.

To read the investigative report in full, click here.

Texas: $3 million fracking lawsuit upheld

Previously, we had reported upon the landmark 2014 fracking lawsuit in Texas, whereby the Parr family were awarded $3 million damages against Aruba Energy, for environmental pollution of the air, water and soils from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction activities (UGEE) that proved to have detrimental impacts on the quality of the family’s health.

Parr

Since then, Aruba Energy appealed the decision. The appeal was rejected on June 19th 2014 by Judge Mark Greenberg, thereby upholding the law in favour of the Parr family.

In the original lawsuit filed, the Parr family had complained of nuisance problems that were caused by unconventional shale gas extraction operations including but not limited to: open sores around he eyes, nose and rest of body, permanent scarring, chronic nose bleeds, migranes, drowsiness, irregular heart beat, depression, ataxia, abdominal pains, arrhythmia, and anisocoria.

The Parr family is not the first family to bring an energy company to court over damages caused by unconventional shale gas extraction, however they are the first family to succeed in acquiring damages from an energy company in front of a court of law.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, click here.

‘Lancet’ medical journal raises detrimental health implications of fracking

One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.

lancet

The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”

The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”

Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.

The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.

Source: aljazeera.com
The practice of unconventional shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking, has drawn criticism as a result of the negative impacts on human health and the environment. (Image source: aljazeera.com)

Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”

In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.

If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.

British Medical Journal criticises safety of fracking

The world renowned British Medical Journal(BMJ) has strongly criticised false assurances of safety given by the recent Public Health of England report which opined that whilst unconventional shale gas extraction posed a risk to public human health, it would not pose a health threat to humans on the European side of the Atlantic.

BMJ

The BMJ article, penned by Adam Law (Cornell Medical College), Jake Hays (PSE Health Energy), Seth B Shonkeff (PSE Health Energy) and Madelon Finkel (Cornell Medical College), draw attention to the fact that whilst the PHE Report acknowledges a real risk to public health, as shown by existing scientific research, the claim made by the report that the health risks will not exist for citizens of the UK and Ireland are theoretical at best.

“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. The optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk
oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk

The BMJ continues: “The [PHE] review appropriately acknowledges differences in geology and regulation between the United States and the United Kingdom. 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 literature.”

“Furthermore, the [PHE] report incorrectly assumes that many of the reported problems experienced in the US are the result of a poor regulatory environment. This position ignores many of the inherent risks of the industry that no amount of regulation can sufficiently remedy, such as well casing, cement failures, and accidental spillage of waste water. There is no reason to believe that these problems would be different in the UK, and the report provides little evidence to the contrary, despite repeated assertions that regulations will ensure safe development of shale gas extraction.”

The BMJ also draws attention to the fact that unconventional shale gas extraction, on this side of the atlantic, will be taking place in more densely populated areas, than usually seen in the US.

In conclusion the BMJ state that: “Rigorous, quantitative epidemiological research, is needed to assess the risks to public health, and data are just starting to emerge.”

To read the BMJ article in full, click here.

Aerial study reveals methane and benzene emissions higher than expected

A new study of the oil and gas fields of Colorado, conducted by scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), has revealed that methane and benzene emissions are respectively as much as three and seven times higher than Colorado state inventory.

Published on the 7th of May 2014, the aerial study recorded methane and non-methane hydrocarbon emissions over the densely pack oil and gas fields of the Denver-Julesburg Basin, over a two day period covering the 29th and 31st May 2013.

Comparing Colorado state inventory data with observational data, the report found that methane concentrations in the air were three times higher than state inventory, with oil and gas operations in the basin emitting around 19.3 metric tonnes of methane emissions every hour, which the authors calculate as a leak rate of 4.1 percent (± 1.5) of total gas produced.

Colorado State. Source: usgs.gov
Colorado State. (image source: usgs.gov)

Benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC) harmful to humans, was seven times higher than state inventory, emitting around 173 ± 64 kg/hr.

The study reinforces concerns that fugitive emissions of methane and other non-methane hydrocarbons are running unabated, with gas operators and policy makers unable to halt fugitive emissions of gases harmful to human health.

“These discrepancies are substantial,” said lead author Gabrielle Petron, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Emission estimates or ‘inventories’ are the primary tool that policy makers and regulators use to evaluate air quality and climate impacts of various sources, including oil and gas sources. If they’re off, it’s important to know.”

To read a copy of the peer-reviewed paper, click here.