Credit: Beyond Coal and Gas
Leading health advocacy organisation, Doctors for the Environment Australia, has today backed calls to establish a royal commission into the impact of coal seam gas mining on the people of Queensland.
Calls for a royal commission into mining, especially coal seam gas, from the leader of the Palmer United Party in the Senate Glenn Lazarus, comes just as the Federal Government’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee warned that Santos’ proposal to expand its CSG operations “creates considerable scientific uncertainty”.
DEA says that given the adverse impacts from CSG on farmers and rural communities which it says have largely been ignored, a royal commission “needs to happen sooner rather than later”.
“The CSG industry is out of control in Queensland- it’s growing so rapidly there is barely time to consider the implications on health and the environment,” says DEA spokesperson, Dr David Shearman.
DEA’s concerns are that fracking methods can use chemicals which are known to have long-term health effects, including endocrine (hormone system) disruption, fertility and reproductive effects and the development of a range of cancers.
Internationally, there is growing evidence that fracking has contaminated wastewater and the potential long-term health impacts are starting to be detected. In the US, the scientific literature shows an increased prevalence of heart defects in children whose mothers lived in close proximity to gas fields.
Says Dr David Shearman, “When dealing with potentially harmful activities, the precautionary principle must be prioritised- public health must not have to carry the burden of proof.
“Some people would have you believe that fracking has financial benefits for the community. It’s false economics when you weigh in the costs to people’s health and the contamination to Queensland’s precious water resources.
Dr Shearman says the lack of regulation and monitoring wells in Queensland has so far had a bad track record. At the end of the first quarter of 2014, there were 5,553 active coal seam gas wells, including 4,703 production wells. Dr Shearman points out there are several examples where there has been a failure to adequately monitor wells.
“CSG is raising alarm bells because it’s an activity whose impacts are clearly proven not to be in the public interest,” Says Dr Shearman.
“We urge the new Government in Queensland to support a royal commission for it is in their interest and those of developers to wipe the slate clean and move to a sound trusted process which protects the current and future health of Queenslanders.”
DEA has recently put in a submission into the Queensland Government administration, whose terms of reference include environmental approvals. This has not as yet been published.