Doctors for the Environment Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide further feedback following the release of the draft Final Report into Hydraulic Fracturing.
It is our recommendation that the moratorium on fracking in NT should be extended indefinitely. Whilst the Inquiry has identified regulatory options that may minimise some of the risks of fracking, DEA believes that for NT, such a response is premature, overly optimistic, and overlooks climate change which is the greatest threat to human and economic health that we face.
Download the Submission to the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory in Response to the Draft Final Report.
The impacts of a development must be seen in the context of national and international health. These important links are explained in “The health factor: Ignored by industry and overlooked by government”, Appendix 1: The need to protect public health.
DEA supports the prohibition of open cut mining in the mapped area of the Upper Hunter near Jerrys Plains. However DEA is of the view that the amendment does not go far enough, and that all coal mining on the site should be prohibited. This is because any form of coal mining on this site would have damaging effects on local population health, the environment and existing industry. Furthermore, coal mining on this site would have negative global effects, from the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent effects of climate change, including threats to health. Therefore DEA advocates for the Mining SEPP amendment to be widened, to include a ban on all coal mining on the site.
Submission to the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) on
– Alinta Energy Reeves Plains Power Station, comprising the construction of a 300 MW capacity gas fired peaking power station
– AGL Energy Grand Trunkway, Torrens Island, comprising the construction of a two stage power station with a total capacity of 420 MW
Since the initial DEA submission there has been new evidence regarding the impact of open cut coal mines on health as well the rejection of a similar proposal, the New Acland Coal mine extension, by the Land Court in Queensland.
DEA has already made a comprehensive submission and provided additional information in a further submission to the Inquiry, and these are now in the Submission library (numbers 96 and 477).
The rapid expansion of the coal and unconventional gas industries has not only created widespread community concern over health and environmental issues but it has exposed the inadequate processes whereby the New South Wales (NSW) government is acting as proponent in their perceived interest of economic development whereas they should be acting as arbiter.
….It is also increasingly apparent that, even with a 2°C rise, the world will be greatly changed from present, with economic budgets greatly stressed by reparation of infrastructure and all the pillars of life, water, food, air quality and biodiversity-resilience under stress and facing likely deterioration…..
It is also very important that the NAIF also takes into account our responsibilities to various international agreements such as the Paris Agreement. This would seem consistent with the paragraph in the White Paper – “The north will be an exemplar of sustainable development. The development of major population centres of more than a million people will underwrite substantial exports of planning, design, architecture and construction to the Tropics”.
DEA notes a number of deficiencies, unsupported assumptions, known and unknown risks in relation to the Santos Narrabri Gasfield project. We recommend rejection of this proposal on the basis that it cannot sufficiently guarantee the safety of human health and ecosystems supporting health.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is concerned about the health effects of climate change on humans and the biosphere on which humans depend. DEA is also cognisant of policies that can address both existing health problems and reduce the impact of climate change. It is in this holistic risk–co-benefit framework that DEA examines the climate change policies of Australian federal and state governments.
DEA notes that the Climate Change Authority (CCA) will join with the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to review an Independent Review into the Future Security of the NEM. The report of this Independent Review is not yet available, so why there has to be further review of an unpublished Review is problematic and raises questions of probity.
DEA commends The Climate Change Authority for taking a lead in exploring the ways in which Australia’s agricultural sector can move from being a major contributor to climate change and degradation of natural resources to being part of the solution, whilst maintaining or improving productivity.
Australia has seen rapid growth in interest and development of exploration and drilling for unconventional gas reserves from coal seams, shale deposits and tight sands. These reserves require special techniques such as fracking, in-seam and horizontal drilling. Doctors for the Environment Australia is concerned that the rush to exploit this resource has outpaced regulation to protect public health and the environment, and to adequately assess the health impacts, including exposures to industrial chemicals.
Mining incurs a range of environmental impacts that persist after the production phase of the mine has ended. There are changes in vegetation and landscape, exposure and potential ignition of fossil fuels, the pollution of air, soils and water, the introduction of aquatic sediments into water sources and land subsidence. Any of these can result in loss of productive land, loss or degradation of groundwater, pollution of surface water and air pollution from dust or toxic gases, with subsequent negative impacts on human health.
Energy reliability and security, and affordability which are all essential for the cohesion and health of our society can be achieved by the continued inclusion of renewable energy into the market; small- and large-scale wind and solar, supported by smart switching and controlling technologies; and by energy storage facilities such as batteries, pumped hydro and concentrated solar thermal.
DEA welcomes the opportunity to respond to the discussion paper ‘Better Fuel for Cleaner Air’ and notes that the scope of the paper is limited to consideration of fuel quality standards while vehicle emission standards and fuel efficiency (greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre) are to be considered separately by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
On reviewing the Interim report one is encouraged by the availability of natural energy resources in Tasmania. Unlike most other states Tasmania has three quarters of stationary energy available through hydro and it has unlimited wind, solar and other modalities which with storage would make the state self-sufficient in clean energy and attain zero emissions from its energy sector…….
We agree with the proposition that although NSW has relatively clean air by global standards, there is still a burden of disease attributable to air pollution and considerable health benefits available by improving air quality.
Coal-fired power stations (CFPS) are substantial sources of air pollutants.
An urgent need to address carbon emissions and a move towards renewable energy are creating structural changes in energy supplies that are having, and will have, profound impacts on workers and communities in the energy sector. With knowledge and planning, those impacts can be attenuated, but without such planning, community and social effects can be long lasting…….
Victoria’s coal fired power stations are responsible for almost 50% of the state’s climate pollution. It is impossible to make a difference to Victoria’s carbon pollution without addressing the operation of these power stations. Any energy derived from brown coal is ‘part of the problem’, as its GEI is above that achievable from other sources of electricity generation……….
DEA is concerned with the projected devastating effects of climate change on human health (and by extension, all forms of life in the biosphere). We note that the Paris Agreement does not deal with health adequately. The Treaty does acknowledge, rather inconspicuously…….
The Terms of Reference of this Inquiry do not address the issues raised by DEA in our submission around the link between the pipeline project and the onshore gas development required to make the project viable.
As part of the Victorian Government’s plans to move away from coal-fired power stations, the government established an independent review of coal policy. This review, together with the review of the Climate Change Act, the Renewable Energy Roadmap, and the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, will feed into a new coal policy which will take into account environmental, social and economic factors. Since about one-third of all Victoria’s emissions are from coal, and since the Victorian government had already committed to net zero emissions by 2050, DEA believes ambitious reduction in coal use is required.
Doctors for the Environment Australia recommends that the present budget for ARENA be maintained as a preventative health measure.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has made many formal submissions from our medical and scientific experts and have had the opportunity to observe the processes and performance of successive Queensland governments. On this occasion we will make some general observations and comments in relation to the report “Advancing Climate Action in Queensland. Making the transition to a low carbon future”.
Building on experiences between farmers and gas drilling operators in other states, in the absence of baseline studies, contamination and pollution by exploration and mining activities cannot be proved and so cannot be attributed to such activities. For example the Condamine River in Queensland…….
As medical doctors we welcome this opportunity to contribute to the community discussion about opportunities to improve the oversight and management of the Yarra River. We rely on natural ecosystems for clean air and water; healthy fertile soils in which to grow our food; a stable climate in which to thrive and a rich tapestry of living organisms- biodiversity- from which we have taken food and developed over half of the medicines in use today.
Our health is absolutely dependent on our natural environment. We rely on natural ecosystems for clean air and water, healthy, fertile soils in which to grow our food, a stable climate in which to thrive and a rich tapestry of living organisms- biodiversity- from which we have taken food and over half of the medicines in use today. Currently we are facing urgent threats to our wellbeing from climate change and biodiversity loss. As medical doctors we welcome this opportunity to provide input to the Victorian government’s review of biodiversity protection – a plan that is desperately needed to address the appalling rate of species extinction in our state.
Vehicle emissions are a major public health issue with approximately 3,000 deaths per annum in Australia resulting from air pollution; a figure greater than total road accident deaths. A significant proportion of these deaths and the chronic illness of thousands more is caused by vehicular pollution.
….oil and gas developments must be undertaken in a manner that will both protect the health of its citizens, preserve and enhance the Territory’s unique surroundings, our way of life and ensure the viability of other crucial sectors of our economy such as agriculture and tourism……
Tasmania and Australia more broadly, is already experiencing the human health impacts of longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves , with recent heatwaves around Australia producing increased hospital admissions and deaths, and putting extra strain on healthcare and emergency services. Recent years have also seen increasingly frequent and severe bushfires in Tasmania. Bushfires pose numerous risks to health including direct injuries, burns and deaths from the fires themselves, as well as through cardiorespiratory effects of smoke on people living hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away….
DEA is of the view that a national approach is essential to reduce the extensive risks associated with unconventional gas mining.
It is a great disappointment that numerous Climate Change Authority discussions and documents on the issue of climate change have failed to emphasise its impact on health. To avoid widespread, severe and irreversible impacts associated with present trajectory of 4 degrees of global warming, urgent action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The response of Government thus far has been grossly inadequate – and that Australia needs to commit to a reduction target on 2020 levels of at least 40% by 2025 and a reduction of at least 95% by 2050. This is the only way that we might be able to confine global temperature rise to 2°C and thus avoid severe consequences to human health. The time to act is now.
The Global Burden of Disease report from WHO estimates that ambient air pollution is responsible for 3.7 million deaths worldwide (2012 estimate).
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) opposes the approval of the Rix’s Creek continuation on the grounds that the area, and in particular the inhabitants of Camberwell and Singleton already suffer high levels of particulate air pollution and the extension of mining will exacerbate the probability of respiratory harm in a region with many existing coal mines and poor air quality. New research on the health effects of air pollution has been published which indicates the annual standard adopted by the NSW EPA is inadequate.
We support the approval of the Biala Wind Farm Project, for reasons set out in the DEA policy position on the health effects of wind farms. The EIS states that electricity production from the Biala wind project would displace electricity that would otherwise emit 200,000 tonnes of CO2 per year….
Climate change is a priority issue for DEA. As the 1st Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health stated in 2009, “climate change is the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century”. The consultation papers for “Developing a New Climate Change Strategy for SA” make very little reference to health. DEA believes health is central to any strategy around climate change as affirmed by the Lancet publications cited above. Our foremost recommendation is to prepare this consultative document urgently.
DEA asks governments to consider the public health impacts and health costs to present and future generations of their policies. This is particularly relevant to the Northern Territory (NT) as we make key decisions and create policy settings that will determine our energy supply and economic directions. We recommend that The Environmental Protection Authority conduct a full Health Impact Assessment in accord with existing agreements.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change from global warming is one of the greatest threats to public health and it will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental pre-requisites for good health: clean air and water, sufficient food, adequate shelter and freedom from disease……..
Global warming is the driver of climate change, although we note that there is no mention of “global warming” in the Act of 2010. It is warming of the land, seas and atmosphere close to earth’s surface and subsequent changes to our climate that is predicted to cause increasingly profound harmful effects to human health and well being unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced substantially within the next decade……
DEA has an extensive history of advocating for the protection of health in relation to the coal industry nationally and in Victoria. Specifically relevant to the residents of Morwell and surrounding areas was DEA’s opposition at the VCAT in 2010 to the EPA approved development of a new coal fuelled power plant to be built by Dual Gas Pty Ltd. This power plant would have been situated 1 km from the Morwell township boundary, and DEA was greatly concerned for the health of local residents from an additional local air pollution source and the health implications globally from commissioning a new coal fuelled power plant when renewable alternatives are available…..
In recent years, Australia has seen exponential growth in interest and development of exploration and drilling for unconventional gas reserves from coal seams, shale deposits and tight sands. These reserves require special techniques such as fracking, in-seam and horizontal drilling. DEA is concerned that the rush to exploit this resource has outpaced regulation to protect public health and to adequately assess the health impacts, including exposures to industrial chemicals.
This document addresses the future impacts of expansion of the nuclear fuel cycle industry on the South Australian environment and community (which are points (b) and (c) of the Terms of Reference). We present our health concerns essentially by quoting published sources relating to health from within the energy industry itself. We also provide an addendum listing some non-health-related issues that suggest nuclear energy is excessively costly and unsustainable.
Of the many pending approvals of new mines in NSW, DEA made submissions on these interrelated mines for two reasons:
Our membership base, together with our Scientific Advisory Committee, includes many prominent and highly respected Australians who actively support our activities. DEA is completely independent from all political parties and corporations, allowing it to maintain integrity and its ability to educate on scientific sound principles at all times. Section 5.3 of the Australian Medical Council entitled ‘A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia, 2009’ states “Good medical practice involves using your expertise and influence to protect and advance the health and wellbeing of individuals, patients, communities and populations.” DEA follows this code by protecting human health through a wide range of educational and other activities aimed at preserving, restoring and preventing further degradation of natural environments.
We recognise the importance of the fin-fish aquaculture industry to the state of Tasmania however if the industry is to continue to grow it must ensure that the health of Tasmania’s waterways and human health are not compromised.
Stationary energy, as a sector, is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally and in Australia.
Contamination of the air we breathe is a special case of environmental exposure. Although the individual risk from air pollution is very low, exposure is ubiquitous and across the entire population so the low individual risk multiplies to a large public health problem. The scientific understanding of these risks has developed greatly in the last ten years. Exposures that were previously thought to be insignificant are now recognised as damaging to health and the range of disease outcomes attributed to air pollution is expanding.
It is important for the government to recognise that its statements on climate change are eagerly scrutinised by a world readership which is greatly concerned by the threats to humanity imposed by climate change. DEA wishes to point out the need for a radical reduction in emissions to address the serious consequences that will otherwise arise. These consequences are barely mentioned in the Issues Paper and of particular concern to us is the failure to deal with health consequences anywhere in the document.
The Environmental Impact Assessment process incorporates this Health Impact Assessment which includes all aspects of community health, including social and mental health aspects and social disruption. All these processes are intended to look at the balance of positive and negative impacts of the development upon which informed decisions can be made. DEA uses its expertise to determine whether these health obligations have been carried out. We have assessed whether the Queensland government has carried out these obligations in relation to resource developments.
Submission to the Climate Change Authority on the future remission targets Australia should commit to as part of an effective and equitable global effort to achieve the objective of the UNFCCC (Article 2) or subsequent agreement to which Australia is a party. Doctors for the Environment Australia recommends that Australia commit to a reduction target on 2020 levels of at least 40% by 2025 and 95% by 2050. These targets are based on the severe consequences for human health and well being if global warming is not confined to two degrees. Since the constraint of emissions will have many health co-benefits and therefore cost savings, there will be some reduction in the costs of mitigation and adaptation.
Members of DEA are deeply concerned by the serious threats posed to health by fracture stimulation (fracking) for unconventional (whether coal seam, shale, or tight) gas in the South East of South Australia.
Doctors for the Environment Australia reminds governments and proponents that health impact assessment is an integral part of the EIA process. In Australia, the states operate the EIA process under Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Guidelines September 2001…….
DEA notes that the AAQ NEPM is not enforceable by the federal government, so even if it includes standards and goals that correctly reflect current scientific thinking on the health effects of air pollution it is not a strong mechanism for ensuring that the Australian population is protected from health impacts.
As a body of medical professionals, DEA is an interested stakeholder due to our interest and expertise on the intersection of health, environmental threats and damage to natural ecosystems such as High Conservation Value (HCV) Forests.
DEA notes the limited terms of reference for this inquiry into hydraulic fracturing. This inquiry could be used as a basis for a more general inquiry into NT energy policy, including the range of options for our own energy supply, and for export to other countries. Hydraulic fracturing enables extraction of hydrocarbon deposits which are one source of energy and economic development. NT has vast reserves of renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind, which can be used for energy and economic development. The limitation of this inquiry to details about hydraulic fracturing obstructs our capacity to consider all options both now and into the future.
Almost a quarter of the disease burden and deaths in the world can be attributed to environmental factors. We cannot begin to alleviate this burden of ill-health unless we address the environmental pathways and antecedent causes.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) response to the Terms of Reference (TOR) is inadequate and requires revision.
It is important to be mindful of the fact that our health, physical and mental, is dependent on our environment. There are many and various pathways by which environmental change can and does impact human health in both the short and long term. This includes how we design our built environment, generate energy, organise health services and transport infrastructure; there is also a strong interrelationship between all of these systems. In particular, urban transport infrastructure and consequently the modes of transport we use, have a range of both direct and indirect health impacts.
The Great Barrier Reef is of “natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and is of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity” (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO).
The Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project is one of the largest proposed coal mines in Queensland, with a predicted yield of 60 million tonnes per annum from a mine site 160km northwest of Clermont plus a 189-kilometre railway line.
Although mining is not a new industry to Tasmania, this proposal, which is expected to produce over 8 million tonnes of coal to be burnt at a later stage, would mark Tasmania as yet another contributor to climate change through increasing utilization of fossil fuels. DEA has a number of concerns that this proposal, if allowed to proceed, would be to the detriment of human health in Tasmania and of global public health.
Impacts of the current proposal do not stop at the perimeter fence. The loading of an extra 70 million tonnes per annum of coal is covered by this planning assessment process, but that 70 Mtpa has to be brought to port in 9,855 trains per year making 19,710 trips through each suburb along the coal corridor. This extra transport task has significant health and environmental effects.
It is vital that new regulations such as this proposed amendment are sufficient to protect public health. However, although it is a step in the right direction, it does not adequately protect other areas at risk – our prime farming land, our water catchments, and unique natural environments like the Pilliga forest (with its state significant biodiversity). Under the changes, these natural resources remain vulnerable to the impacts of coal seam gas mining. Moreover, the amendment does not apply to existing CSG developments, with only areas exposed to new exploration and production development being assured of exclusion.
It is important to firstly emphasise that hydraulic fracturing is just one process of a group of recent innovations and new technologies that have enabled the development of previously inaccessible petrochemical reserves. The other integral innovations and technologies include “slickwater”, high volumes of fluid, horizontally or directional drilling and multi-well pads and cluster drilling.
In the opinion of DEA, the proposed SEPP inappropriately promotes and facilitates the development of resource mining at the expense of the other valuable land uses, ecosystems, local communities, our health and the stability of our climate.
We have a planet to manage, not just a local economy.
DEA applauds the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for producing guidelines to clarify the implementation of the ‘water trigger’ in association with those industries that have an enormous potential impact on Australia’s water supply and quality.
The submission by Doctors for the Environment Australia to the EIS in December 2011 noted that “This EIS fails to assess the human health impacts adequately”. The SEIS also fails.
In this submission DEA outline the health imperatives to reduce Australia’s emissions as quickly as possible, and therefore put a strong case for increasing Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target from 5% to 25%.
Whilst Doctors for the Environment Australia addresses public health issues pertaining particularly to environmental causes of ill health, it is clear that good health exists within the wider context of sustainability and preservation of ecological support systems. On this basis we must make comment.
Doctors for the Environment Australia welcomes the opportunity to comment on the impacts on health of air quality in Australia, as this is an important public health issue to which inadequate attention has been paid to date.
In the Draft State Public Health Plan, the focus of the climate change priority must move from its current focus on adaptation to emphasize the urgency and priority of mitigation, with clear strategies outlined for various government and business groups.
This paper looks at the draft terms of reference for an environmental impact statement regarding the expansion of the existing New Acland open-cut coal mine, from 4.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) to up to 7.5 Mtpa.
Port Augusta has experienced pollution from its power stations for many years.
The draft management plan should be acknowledged for recognising and including some of the important factors that will determine the health and sustainability of our SW forest ecosystems over coming decades.
DEA is concerned about the slow progress NICNAS has made in assessing existing and unassessed chemicals on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS). One of the main functions of the regulatory system is to protect human health and well-being…..
Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that increasing green house emissions are responsible for the climate change which is having health impacts throughout the world.
By George Crisp and David Shearman on 20 March 2012 in Renew Economy. We thank Renew Economy.
The Draft Energy White Paper (EWP) displays a grave misunderstanding of energy issues in the 21st century……
DEA is concerned about the environment and effects of human activity on environmental and ecological function. Our concern is grounded in the necessity of a well functioning environment for human health and wellbeing.
Observations concerning the Air Quality section of Environmental Impact Statement for Acland Stage 3 (Chapter 9) by medical experts from Doctors for the Environment Australia.
DEA considers the current level of assessment, monitoring and regulation of CSG exploration and mining activities in NSW to be inadequate to protect the health of current and future generations of Australians.
Coal seam gas mining (CSG) may have adverse impacts on human health by contamination of drinking and agricultural-use water, and air. Contaminants of concern include many of the chemicals used for fracking, as well as toxic substances produced through this process and mobilised from the sedimentary regions drilled. Some of these compounds can produce short-term health effects and some may contribute to systemic illness and/or cancer many years later.
Fossil fuels are responsible for a significant disease burden in our community contributing to climate change. Wind power and other renewable energies have the potential to reduce threats to health through reduction in air pollution and mitigation of climate change.
This submission analyses the increasing complexity of information that has to be absorbed and assessed by elected representatives in order to make appropriate decisions. House Committees are sometimes a forum for providing important factual updates to Members and Senators and the expansion of this role will be explored…
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) has major concerns about the expected effects of climate change on human health and well being. We have recently released nationally and internationally a report on this topic. It is therefore appropriate that we submit to this Senate Committee to emphasise that a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is urgent and the only way that this can be quickly accomplished is by encouraging energy saving and expanding renewable energy provision. The situation is urgent because recent scientific reports are showing that the harmful effects of climate change are arising much faster than anticipated from IPCC data. There is increasing danger that climate change may become irreversible.
The World Health Day, celebrated on April 7 each year, creates awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organisation. For 2008 the World Health Organisation has selected the topic “protecting health from climate change” This submission to the Garnaut Committee will indicate why this topic is so important and will document from the medical and scientific literature the implications for health in Australia.
If these threats to health and other problems associated with climate change are to be avoided, Australia needs to take strong decisive action. The science is sufficiently clear to warrant a reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions of at least 60 per cent by 2050. DEA strongly supports the development of an emissions trading scheme and believes that it will play an important and prominent role in moving Australia’s emissions profile towards this target. A national scheme would ideally be initiated by and coordinated by the Commonwealth Government. However as such action is not forthcoming, the joint initiative by the States and Territories Governments is to be commended.
The USA and Australia recognise the interdependence of nations in counteracting threats to all (eg “terror”) and call for concerted action. By contrast, USFTA fails to recognise that Australia is part of a world which for its future survival, must recognise the interdependence of all peoples and its ecological systems. DEA has a major philosophical problem with the proposal; it smacks of self- interest. It promotes possible, though unproven, short-term economic gains for the participants without consideration of the long-term consequences for future generations. It is an agreement with the intent of benefiting two wealthy countries. There is no recognition that USFTA and other trade agreements might have long-term consequences for all nations by accelerating environmental damage, so creating a future debt for all….