Over 1,300 submissions were received by the EPA concerning the proposed Terms of Reference for their new Research Study on fracking. The majority of those demanded a study on the impacts of Health on the whole process of fracking.
Among many other individuals and groups, GEAI demanded a full Health Impact Assessment (HIA). We believe that only this can give a true picture of the impacts of fracking on health and the community. Attention is now turning to the process of scoping and carrying out this study. One of the rights of individuals under the Aarhus Convention (ratified by the Irish Government last year) is public participation in environmental decision-making:
“Arrangements are to be made by public authorities to enable the public affected and environmental non-governmental organisations to comment on, for example, proposals for projects affecting the environment, or plans and programmes relating to the environment, these comments to be taken into due account in decision-making, and information to be provided on the final decisions and the reasons for it.”
Two conclusions can be reached:
1. Since most of the submissions received looked for Health impacts to be studied, the EPA now has to either agree to this, or give the reasons why not.
Indications are that they have agreed to include some form of Health study but the public must be informed as to what kind of study is proposed and we can demand input into this decision as well. Nothing less than a full Health Impact Assessment would be adequate.
2. There are fundamental flaws in the process by which this study is being managed.
There is no representation from the target communities on the Steering Committee managing this study; neither are there members from the Departments of Health or Agriculture.
There is no accountability to the public since the EPA and associated organisations have immunity from prosecution.
There are no further proposals to enable the public affected to comment on amended Terms of Reference, the scope of the research study, or draft reports.
The “public consultation” we have had, although a step in the right direction, is not enough. The public MUST be involved at every stage of this extremely important study. We have seen how public opinion and lobbying can influence Government decisions. We now must demand input into the research study process.
Picture: Glass of milky brown water in Dimock, Pennsylvania (From Marcellus Protest)