Sustained Outrage

Study: Public health left out of drilling decisions

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We’ve written before about the work of an Obama administration Department of Energy panel examining drilling for natural gas in shale formations (see here and here).  And over at the Coal Tattoo blog, I’ve covered the problems with the fact that West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t really have staff with an expertise or focus on human health issues.

Now a new article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives discusses the lack of input from public health professionals in studies and regulatory actions regarding shale-gas drilling:

We review the extent to which advisory committees formed in 2011 by the US Department of Energy and the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania contain individuals with expertise pertinent to human environmental public health. We also analyze the extent to which human health issues are of concern to the public by reviewing the presentations to the public meeting of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board Natural Gas Subcommittee.

At a public hearing held by the President’s Natural Gas Subcommittee 62.7% of those not in favor of drilling mentioned health issues. Although public health is specified to be a concern in the executive orders forming these three advisory committees, we could identify no individuals with health expertise among the 52 members of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission; the Maryland Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission; or the Secretary of Energy’s Natural Gas Subcommittee.

The conclusion:

Despite recognition of the environmental public health concerns related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, neither state nor national advisory committees selected to respond to these concerns contained recognizable environmental public health expertise.