Coverage in Sligo today: http://www.sligotoday.ie/details.php?id=40755
Concerned Health Professionals of Ireland Petition (NI)
Dear First Minister and Deputy First Minister,
We, the undersigned physicians, nurses, researchers and health professionals, write to you due to our growing concerns about the public health risks and harm that High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) and the exploration and extraction of Oil & Gas from shale rock pose to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We have been reviewing the alarming trends in the scientific peer-reviewed studies regarding the health, environmental and community impacts of exploring, drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for natural gas from the United States and internationally.
The scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that permitting fracking in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here. At the same time, the evidence also shows that fundamental data gaps remain and that the best imaginable regulatory frameworks fall far short of protecting our health and our environment.
The science, which now encompasses more than 550 peer–reviewed studies, has been compiled by the Nobel prize-winning health organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the group, Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) in a document called The Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) (http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/fracking-compendium.pdf). Note that this technology, involving the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock, goes by many names: fracking, HVHF, and unconventional gas exploration and extraction (UGEE). Modern fracking is different and much more extreme than low-volume, more traditional forms of fracking that have been used in some cases since the 1950s.
Concerned both by the rapidly expanding evidence of harm and by the uncertainties that remain, we urge you to conclude that nothing short of a complete ban on HVHF and the exploration & extraction of Oil & Gas from shale rock in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the appropriate course of action.
The pace at which studies on the adverse impacts on health of fracking are emerging has increased substantially in the last two years. The October 2015 issue of the Physicians for Social Responsibility science Compendium tells us that “The study citation database maintained by PSE Healthy Energy shows that over half of the available studies on the adverse impacts of shale and tight gas development have been published since January 2014. In 2014, 192 peer-reviewed studies on these impacts were published. In the first six months of 2015, 103 studies appeared*. The vast majority of these studies reveal problems.”
*(PSE Healthy Energy. http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1180)
Altogether, the data reveal many serious health risks associated with drilling and fracking operations, and expose intractable, irreversible problems. They also make clear that the relevant risks for harm have neither been fully identified nor adequately assessed. While the scope of concerns and new information is far greater than this letter can accommodate, trends emerging in the three editions of the CHPNY Compendia (July 2014, December 2014 & October 2015) “confirm that the public health risks from unconventional gas and oil extraction are real, the range of adverse impacts significant, and the negative economic consequences considerable.”
After two years conducting the first public health review that has been undertaken on the impacts of UGEE, the New York State Department of Health, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, similarly concluded that UGEE poses significant public health risks. The substantial report pointed to many peer-reviewed studies, data from parts of the United States where UGEE is taking place, and a range of serious risks to people’s health and the environment. In December, 2014, New York State announced a ban on HVHF given the risks.
Medical professionals are duty bound to ‘first do no harm.’ This standard of duty should also be the proper course of action for policy makers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Amidst all the uncertainty, this much is very clear: based on the knowledge available to us now with regard to UGEE, the Northern Ireland Executive, including the Department of Health, the Department of Environment and Department of Enterprise, Trade & Industry can come to no other determination, except to say that this admirable and appropriate standard cannot be met. Full and meaningful Public Health involvement from the Department of Health is required to ensure we get comprehensive and rigorous assessment of any issues and research that could impact our patients’ current and future state of health.
We note that public health is best served by transparency and inclusiveness, particularly of those who stand to be affected. In the case of UGEE in Northern Ireland, a Strategic Environmental Assessment [SEA] should have been carried out prior to awarding any of the exploratory licenses. Because a SEA was not carried out, the cumulative impact of the proposed 3000 wells in Northern Ireland has not been assessed.
Given the significant evidence of risks and harms that UGEE pose, we urge that the Northern Ireland Executive, in collaboration with the Department of Health introduce a formal ban on UGEE in Northern Ireland. Given the lack of any evidence indicating that fracking can be done safely – and a wealth of evidence to the contrary – we consider a complete and outright ban the only responsible decision. Thank you.