Unconventional gas, health, economics and incompetent regulation - an everyperson’s guide to what’s going on.

We know from the work of William Nordhaus that coal has no economic value to communities if all social, health and environment, and climate related impacts are taken into account. Coal remains viable only in the minds of climate deniers, some governments, and fossil fuel barons who continue to profit despite its harms.

Submission to the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory in Response to the Draft Final Report

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.

Croakey: Queensland authorities urged to to act on health concerns about coal seam gas emissions

A study in the International Journal of Environmental Studies by DEA’s Dr Geralyn McCarron, showing a possible link between pollutants from the CSG industry and a spike in hospitalisations in the Darling Downs raises questions about safety, but also about how the industry responds to public health concerns. 

In response to the paper, the peak national gas industry body the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) attacked the author and made sweeping and incorrect statements about the study, rather than expressing concern about the findings.

In this Croakey blog, Dr McCarron responds to the attacks and calls on health authorities to take responsibility for further investigation of the health impacts of the CSG industry on local residents.

Supplementary Submission to the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory

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).

Newcastle Herald Opinion | Health omitted from review of EIS: Doctors

There are numerous examples of where communities have been put at risk from the rapid expansion of the coal and unconventional gas industry in NSW. Bulga, Singleton, Camden are some of the sites that come to mind.

NSW EIA Improvement Project – 1: Overview of the EIA Improvement Project Submission

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.

InDaily: Why fracking the South-East threatens more than agriculture

Australia’s energy debate needs to consider mounting evidence that unconventional gas extraction poses a serious risk to human health, argues David Shearman.

Huffington Post: Why The Finkel Review Sells Australia’s Climate Future Short

News that the Finkel report on how to make the energy market secure is facing bitter opposition among the ranks of the Coalition doesn’t bode well.

Submission on the Narrabri Gas Project

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.

OnlineOpinion: The NT must keep the door firmly closed to fracking

There is growing concern in the NT that the Gunner Government may remove the moratorium on fracking. However, rejecting the moratorium would be a grave mistake, and Territorians know this. That’s why we voted for the moratorium in the landslide ALP victory in August 2016.

Media release: NT Government must stick to moratorium on fracking, urge doctors

Medical doctors have called for an extension of the moratorium on fracking in the Northern Territory, fearing that the Government’s focus on developing a regulatory framework for fracking could signal support for this highly controversial procedure.

Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory submission

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.

Renew Economy Oped: No social licence, no gas fracking in South Australia

In a state with a history of enlightened decisions, The final report of the South Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into unconventional gas (fracking) in the South East of South Australia the Committee has produced another one.

Croakey: The new NT government is right to announce an inquiry into fracking

One of the outcomes of the Labor Party’s landslide election win in the Northern Territory earlier this year was a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional gas reservoirs (fracking), pending the outcome of an independent inquiry into the practice.

A call for submissions to the inquiry’s terms of reference closed recently, having garnered 364 submissions. One of them was from Doctors for the Environment Australia.

In the post below, Dr Rosalie Schultz and Dr David Shearman, both members of Doctors for the Environment Australia ask the important question of who benefits if fracking is allowed to go ahead in the NT, and give their recommendations for making sure health considerations are front and centre as the inquiry proceeds.

Media release: SA Government urged to pull its weight in response to the climate meeting in Morocco

Doctors fear the SA State Government’s doubling of the air pollution cap signifies a possible “sell-out” to the gas industry, further undermining Australia’s already poor reputation at the first meeting of world leaders under the Paris agreement in Morocco starting this week.

NT Fracking Inquiry 2016

We acknowledge the Northern Territory Government for its implementation of a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the establishment of this inquiry and public consultation.

Jemena Northern Gas Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement NT Submission

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.

Renew Economy Oped: Myth of gas; has South Australia capitulated to fossil fuels?

Gas is a seemingly difficult issue for governments. Looking at the health disasters of asbestos, tobacco and air pollution from coal, government ministers might wonder if they would have acted earlier had they been in power and reassured themselves they would. That is the problem, they are making decisions now based on political expediency which will leave their successors to face the potential health consequences.

The Guardian: Cigarettes, asbestos, now fossil fuels. How big business impacts public health

The decisions reached at the recent Coag energy council meeting are reminiscent of a long series of failures to understand the impacts of powerful business on the health of the community.

Media release: Vic government gas ban a big win for health, say doctors

Doctors have applauded the Andrews government for prioritising the health of Victorians by placing a permanent ban on the development of onshore unconventional gas in Victoria.

Media release: Doctors warn against gas as a “transitional fuel” due to concerns about its safety

Australia must shelve plans to make gas a “transitional fuel” because it will worsen the climate change emergency, warn health experts in response to last Fridays COAG meeting of energy ministers.

SBS: Gasfields – gambling with our health

As the Victorian government prepares to release its much anticipated gas policy, expected before parliament resumes on August 16, pro fossil fuel heavy weights have already jumped the starting line with misleading spin.

Croakey: A timely examination of fracking concerns in the NT

Territorians love the natural environment. We enjoy the environment both for the exhilaration it gives us, and for its tourism value. We should also remember that our health depends on having clean air and water and safe food.

Natural gas development (UGD) and its implications for health

Natural Gas, composed mainly of methane with some other hydrocarbons, is categorised as conventional or unconventional depending on its source.

Unconventional gas and health – Fact Sheet

Unconventional gas is ‘natural gas’ that is trapped in rock from which it is difficult to extract, requiring specialised mining procedures and often access to large areas of land.

Unconventional Gas Development – DEA Position Statement

Unconventional gas development (UGD) is the extraction of natural gas which is difficult to access conventionally, from coal seams, shale or other rock formations, using techniques such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Hydraulic fracturing involves the pressurised injection of fluids, sand and chemical additives into rock to open up fractures, allowing gas to flow out.

Doctors urge action from federal government to protect health from unconventional gas mining

Doctors from the health organisation Doctors for the Environment Australia, presenting before the Senate Committee on Unconventional Gas Mining in Darwin on Tuesday 12 April, said after a previous Senate Inquiry and numerous state inquiries, Australian governments have still not done enough to protect public health.

Unconventional Gas Mining. DEA evidence to the Select Committee

Unconventional Gas Mining – Adequacy of Australia’s legislative, regulatory and policy framework.

Submission to the Select Committee on Unconventional Gas Mining

DEA is of the view that a national approach is essential to reduce the extensive risks associated with unconventional gas mining.

Croakey comment: Victorian moratorium on unconventional gas

Medical professionals and organisations, together with community members, raised serious concerns about the health impacts of unconventional gas extraction in submissions to a recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry.

Media release: Doctors urge ban on fracking to continue

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.

Border Watch: Fracking facts shared at inquiry

Associate Professor of public health Dr Melissa Haswell presents the health harms linked to hydraulic fracturing at the parliamentary inquiry into coal seam gas in South Australia.?

Geelong Advertiser: Cheap energy not worth fracking risks

On the surface, the unconventional gas industry promises many things, including cheap energy and jobs. However in this comment piece in the Geelong Advertiser, Dr Liz Bashford says that the risks from unconventional gas are potentially serious for both human health and the environment.

Inquiry into Unconventional Gas in Victoria – July 2015

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.

Opinion: national guidelines needed on coal seam gas and coal mining

Australia needs mandatory federal guidelines on fracking and coal mining that are based on scientific and medical opinion, says Doctors for the Environment Australia’s Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman in an oped in the Sydney Morning Herald today.

Inquiry into Unconventional Gas (Fracking) – South Australia

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.

Review of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) in Tasmania submission – December 2014

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…….

“Tread carefully or we risk fracturing our environment”, comment in “The Mercury” by Dr Rohan Church

Health experts around the world are warning against the exploration and mining of unconventional gas reserves- for example, the UK’s chief scientific adviser Mark Walport, advised in his recent annual report that fracking could carry unforeseen risks in the same way that thalidomide, asbestos and tobacco did.

What are the health concerns with Unconventional Gas?

Unconventional gas (UG) refers to gas which is found in coal seams, shale or other rock formations and cannot be extracted using conventional methods.

Fracking in the NT: What’s the rush? Let’s wait and see

I recently spoke on behalf of Doctors for the Environment Australia to the Commissioner on the Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in NT, Mr Allan Hawke. This Inquiry was established in April 2014 to provide information to the NT government on a range of issues related to hydraulic fracturing “fracking”. It will report by the end of 2014.

Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry Northern Territory Submission – May 2014

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.

DEA Hydraulic fracturing in NT inquiry submission 04-14

South Australia Unconventional Gas Fact Sheet

Why are there serious concerns over the development of unconventional gas (coal seam, shale, and tight gas) in South Australia?

Inquiry into the Implications for Western Australia of Hydraulic Fracturing for Unconventional Gas – September 2013

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.

DEA celebrates Sydney water catchment protection

Big Win to Protect the Special Protected Areas of the Sydney Water Catchment – Extension of Licence to Drill 16 Exploratory Wells in the Illawarra Refused

Draft significant impact guidelines: Coal seam gas submission

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.

We need to do our homework on the health risks of coal seam gas

This article by DEA Committee Member Marion Carey was published in The Conversation 2nd April and appears under a Creative Commons licence.

A day to lift our spirits

News from DEA’s Unconventional Gas Working Group:

Coal seam gas: just another land use in a big country

The following article first appeared at The Conversation and appears here under a Creative Commons licence.

Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme

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…..

Coal seam gas is coming to Victoria, and we’re nowhere near ready

Having had a Senate Inquiry into CSG which attracted many expert submissions and produced a bipartisan report the states produce their own take on the science; it is a wasteful, confused system with little consideration of human health. It is now the turn of Victoria

Black carbon, methane and action on climate change, an update.

This is an important topic because simple action on these short term pollutants reduces global temperature immediately. Their health impacts are therefore important. A year ago we provided an ABC on this topic and pointed out Australia’s role in this pollution. Black carbon is produced with the burning of forest floor waste, prescribed burns, the burning of agricultural waste and the use of diesel combustion engines. Methane pollution is a major mainly unaddressed problem in Australia from the fugitive emissions from coal seam gas wells and from the emissions by livestock. Methane emissions are increasing internationally.

Coal seam gas health effects need more scrutiny

This article by DEA Committee Member Marion Carey was published in Medical Observer 20 March 2012.  We thank medical Observer for permission to publish.

Behind the Seams: who’s asking questions about coal seam gas and health?

by David Shearman and Marion Carey, of Doctors for the Environment Australia
from Crikey March 8, 2012 http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/03/08/behind-the-seams-whos-asking-questions-about-coal-seam-gas-and-health/
We thank the Editor of crikey for permission.

Coal Seam gas: future bonanza or toxic legacy?

Article for ACL Viewpoint magazine 23 January 2012
By Dr Marion Carey, VicHealth Senior Research Fellow, Monash Sustainability Institute

Health, mining reform needed for coal seam gas industry

Enough evidence has emerged at the Senate Inquiry into coal seam gas to merit significant reform orchestrated by the Federal Government.

DEA at Gas Forum in Sydney – Dr Helen Redmond

DEA was represented at this Coal Seam Gas Community forum by Dr Helen Redmond who speaks around 0:42s.  The meeting addressed concerns over gas extraction in the Sydney Basin.

Coal seam gas: a sleight of hand?

Gas giant Woodside has made a presence in the popular media this week, claiming that gas represents a pathway to a cleaner, better world.

Fears over gas drilling more than hot air

Last night’s ABC Four Corners program on coal seam gas can be a first important step in reform to protect the public’s health.



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