Doctors are alarmed that the Northern Territory Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Eva Lawler has given approval to gas giant Origin Energy to commence fracking in the NT to mine shale gas. The decision flies in the face of clear evidence that gas mining brings unacceptable health risks.
Doctors for the Environment Australia, says the Northern Territory government Is recklessly ignoring the ominous signs of climate change, which is already contributing to people leaving NT for cooler climates down south.
DEA is a group of doctors supported by health experts, including a Nobel laureate and recipients of the Australia of the Year award.
DEA NT spokesperson Dr Rosalie Schultz says, “This decision takes us closer to the reality of places such as Darwin experiencing deadly heat for most of the year, based on projections by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.
"We are in a climate emergency, demanding whole of society response yet NT government appears unconcerned, even despite recognising our declining population.
"The climate change potential of fracking in NT will increase Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, when we already emit one of the highest levels per person of any country."
Dr Schultz also noted many potent chemicals and vast quantities of fine sand and water are used in fracking.
These, plus many other potentially harmful chemicals in the salty wastewater may enter air or water throughout the entire fracking and production processes.
Exposure to these chemicals, combined with stress and anxiety from intrusion into people’s lives, may explain some of the health impacts seen more commonly among people living close to gas wells and infrastructure.
“This includes links with lower birth weight, asthma, sinus conditions and migraines, skin rashes, fatigue, traffic accidents and depression, as well as hospitalisations for heart, nerve, respiratory and immune system diseases and some cancers.
“Alarmingly, DEA’s latest review showed that even in just two years since our submission to the NT Fracking Inquiry, the evidence of health and environmental harms from shale gas mining has substantially increased.
For example, one new study revealed a dramatic rise in water footprint--up to 7.7-- and 14-fold increases in water usage and waste per well across five years in semi-arid regions across the United States.“
Inadequate environmental management plan
Dr Schultz also says Origin Energy’s assessments of the risks contained in its Environmental Management Plan were severely lacking in detail.
“Many of the data sheets for the chemicals Origin Energy plans to use are data deficient, stating there is ‘no data available’.
Some individual chemicals had been accessed by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). However the assessments by NICNAS are incomplete because they only analysed individual active ingredients rather than the combinations of chemicals used in fracking.
“This is despite calls by the World Health Organization and other researchers for assessments to account for the cumulative load of chemicals and what happens to them when they mix in the wastewater from flowback.”
NT’s potential as a renewable superpower
Dr Schultz says NT's potential as a growth centre in solar energy is being derailed by Origin Energy and other companies.
“Our government needs to listen to electors, particularly those in the bush who are attached to the land despite climate and pollution risks.
“We must stop new gas developments and embrace the massive opportunities in renewable energy development that could transform our economy and protect our futures."
Dr Rosalie Schultz
Prof Melissa Haswell
Contact DEA's Media and Communications Coordinator for interviews on 0410 703 074
Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory
DEA is an independent organisation of medical doctors protecting health through care of the environment http://dea.org.au
We are supported by a Scientific Advisory Committee of distinguished health experts: Prof Stephen Boyden AM, Prof Emeritus Chris Burrell AO, Prof Colin Butler, Prof Peter Doherty AC, Prof Michael Kidd AM, Prof David de Kretser AC, Prof Stephen Leeder AO, Prof Ian Lowe AO, Prof Robyn McDermott, Prof Lidia Morawska, Prof Peter Newman AO, Prof Emeritus Sir Gustav Nossal AC, Prof Hugh Possingham, Prof Lawrie Powell AC, Prof Fiona Stanley AC, Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM, Dr Norman Swan