On 31st of March, Medact published its report on Health and Fracking which concluded that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (‘fracking’) poses significant risks to public health and called for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full and comprehensive health and environmental impact assessment (HIA) to be completed.
In addition to this, shale gas is not a clean source of energy. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and its use is incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking entirely.
In response, the report was challenged and criticised by UKOOG: the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry. A number of pro-fracking individuals have also criticised the report via social media, in person at the report launch, and in an ‘open letter’ to Medact; while a news item published by the Times falsely claimed that the Medact report had been written by an ‘activist’.
Dr Patrick Saunders, a co-author of the report said, “all the substantive criticisms were looked at carefully, but none of them have given us reason to change our conclusions and recommendations. We can conclude that shale gas development will have a negative social, ecological and health impact, even though we cannot quantify the effect with any precision”.
Among the key findings of the report is that regulatory systems and policies are insufficient to provide assurance that fracking could or would be conducted safely. These concerns have been echoed in a separate recent study on the regulatory system for fracking which was published by Joanne Hawkins from the University of Bristol.
Dr David McCoy, Director of Medact, said:“Even if we can’t quantifiably predict the scale of risk and harm associated with fracking, shale gas development in the UK appears incompatible with our need to respond to climate change. Put together, these reasons, have led us to conclude that shale gas development should be abandoned in favour of renewable energy development.
The claim that the report was written by an ‘activist’ is wrong. A request to the Times to correct their inaccuracy has thus far gone unanswered.
Graham Jukes OBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, in explicitly endorsing the Medact conclusions and content as a valuable contribution to the literature on this subject said: “It is a shame that the detailed analysis and arguments presented in the Medact report have not been widely or accurately reported in the mainstream press given that this is a vital and contentious policy issue”.
Medact have asked Public Health England to respond to its report on fracking and health, and to convene a meeting where these issues can be debated in public. David McCoy stated: “The public health community in the UK needs to come together to have an open and frank debate about fracking and climate change. But such a debate needs to take place without undue pressure from government ministers or inappropriate lobbying from industry”.