7 December 2017
A ban on coal seam and other forms of onshore gas in Victoria should continue until it can be shown that developing this resource will not compromise public health, doctors urge ahead of an inquiry that is due to report on 8 December.
Health advocacy group Doctors for the Environment Australia says that mounting evidence suggests there is cause for concern for human health from unconventional gas developments.
The group warns that the use of chemicals to extract the gas can have health consequences mainly through contaminated air, water and land. Furthermore as with tobacco, asbestos and some heavy metals, adverse effects in people may not emerge for many years or decades.
“Australia has recently seen exponential growth in both interest and development of unconventional gas reserves,” says DEA spokesperson Dr John Iser. “As doctors we’re concerned that the rush to exploit this resource has outpaced the efforts to protect public health.”
Dr Iser says the current regulatory environment within the industry in other parts of Australia shows poorly monitored self-reporting and inadequate baseline studies.
He says that any approval of the industry developing needs to have independent monitoring and a strict regulatory and enforcement framework, including mandatory full public disclosure of all chemicals used in the gas industry.
Dr Iser also says that gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing will contribute to climate change. It has almost the equivalent greenhouse gas as coal when the full life cycle is considered, such as the energy used to build the gas field, and fugitive emissions of methane escaping from gas wells contribute significantly to the overall greenhouse gas emissions.
“We call on the government to carefully weigh up the evidence when considering the inquiry’s recommendations on the moratorium, and to see past the industry’s rhetoric of safe and plentiful energy- especially at a time when we should be moving towards renewables.”
DEA Victorian Chair Dr John Iser, 0428 599 025