Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health, uncomfortable with shale gas blueprint, Health officer surprised policy document doesn’t include health as a key objective

Cleary uncomfortable with shale gas blueprint, Health officer surprised policy document doesn’t include health as a key objective by CBC News, May 10, 2013
New Brunswick chief public health officer says the provincial government’s oil and natural gas blueprint should have included human health as one of its key objectives. Energy Minister Craig Leonard released the province’s oil and gas roadmap on Thursday that was based on six objectives. But Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said she would have expected a document like that to include human health as a top priority. Dr. Eilish Cleary says her recommendations for protecting health if a shale gas industry develops still have not been implemented.

Cleary released her own report in October on how to protect the health of New Brunswickers if a shale gas industry does eventually develop. “So I would really like to think that in the next version of the document, if there is one, that health was recognized as being first and foremost.” Leonard said the oil and gas plan is something that will be updated. “It’s going to be an organic document that will change as changes take place in the environment that we’re dealing in, whether it’s the industry technological advances or we might just find a lot more product than we thought and the industry could potentially expand a lot quicker than we thought,” he said.

Cleary says when she thinks of a blueprint she thinks of a technical diagram and expected the province’s plan to include specifics about what would happen and when. “I know that’s very important for my work because I’m getting asked some very practical and sensible questions for which I don’t yet have the answer,” she said. She adds the suggestion in the government’s report that her recommendations have been addressed is incorrect. “I would say that for virtually all of my recommendations that there is substantive work to be done before we can say that they have been implemented in a satisfactory manner,” Cleary said.

EIA process not sufficient
Cleary says New Brunswick cannot depend on the environmental imp“I would question, if we’re not bringing in this industry in order to better the lives and the health of the people of this province, well then why would we do it?” act assessment to protect the health of citizens of the province. She says the EIA process is limited when it comes to addressing matters of public health, because it focuses on limiting environmental sources of disease such as pollution levels. Public health is much more complicated. “It’s about saying how can we, if an industry is being developed, plan to make sure that it not only protects people in this community but also enables them to have a healthier life — so it’s a completely different approach.” Cleary says public health is all about planning and she is cautioning the government to take time to think about next steps. “One of the things that I have been asked by people when I’ve had the opportunity to talk about this industry is, ‘What’s the rush?” And I often agree,” she said. “So I think what we need is a plan and things mapped out, time frames, clearer understanding of what’s happening when, what would be permitted when and a good process put in place to do that planning.” [Emphasis added]

The New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint by Province of New Brunswick, May 2013

Oil and gas blueprint released, Critics say they’re disappointed with lack of details by CBC News, May 9, 2013
[Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard] said The New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint focuses on six principles:

Environmental responsibility.
Effective regulation and enforcement.
Community relations.
First Nations engagement.
Stability of supply.
Economic development.

Minister Leonard talk about the BluePrint on Fredericton Information Morning by CBC News

Fredericton Information Morning Shale gas regulations, We hear what New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health thinks of the government’s new blueprint for natural gas exploration by CBC News, May 10, 2013

Community Groups Respond to Government’s Shale Gas Blueprint New Brunswick Oil and Natural Gas Blueprint, Wishful Thinking about Our Future by Stephen Gilbert, May 10, 2013

New Brunswick Environmental Network

It ignores the worldwide alarms from scientists, global financial and energy institutions, and the world’s military and intelligence establishments that climate change is the most serious threat to our existence, our financial systems, and our security. …

It ignores the lack of public health studies about shale gas, and disregards the serious warnings raised from the studies that do exist.

It ignores implementing many of its own Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for baseline health studies, and relegates others to a ‘will be considered in the future’ status.

It ignores adequately addressing some recommendations by simply claiming they are answered in the ‘Rules for Industry’. Those concerning fracking fluid disclosure, well testing and setbacks clearly are not.

It ignores the fact that insinuating the newly created Energy Institute into matters formerly handled by health professionals will only deepen public mistrust.

It ignores the calls from New Brunswick health professionals, including doctors, nurses and cancer and lung associations, for a moratorium until studies can be done.

It ignores the extensive record of air and water pollution that has occurred everywhere shale has been produced, regardless of regulations, including ignoring data from industry’s own records showing a high frequency of well failures.

It ignores the facts that alternative energies such as wind and solar are the fastest growing parts of the energy sector and are supplying increasing amounts of energy and good long-term jobs at competitive costs – everywhere else in the world but here.

It ignores the growing number of economic studies that show that local communities do not profit from shale gas, and that most fare worse than similar non-shale communities on virtually every socio-economic measure.

It ignores the growing number of financial and petroleum analysts who have taken the measure of shale gas through industry records and judged it to be a bubble that will soon burst.

It ignores the growing number of countries, states, provinces, regions and municipalities (including many in New Brunswick) that have instituted bans or moratoriums on shale gas.

And, most troubling of all, it has ignored the voices of its own citizens.

It ignored a 2011 petition with 20,000 signatures, and a recent letter from groups representing more than 50,000 people calling for a halt to shale exploration.

It ignores the growing number of diverse social, labor, professional, environmental, health, political and citizen groups that continue banding together to oppose shale gas.

It ignores its treaty duty to do real consultation with First Nations, and ignores its own call for public meetings.

It even ignores the well-researched public comments from the alleged ‘listening tour’ conducted by Dr. LaPierre.

Instead it has listened to the shale industry exclusively, and kowtowed to its needs, whether by not punishing lawbreakers like Windsor Energy, or by improperly granting license renewals to SWN on the flimsiest of excuses.

It has listened to industry trade groups like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, whose language, deceptive advertising, disinformation, and meaningless phrases like, ‘best practices,’ show up in the government’s blueprint and website.

It has listened to Dr. LaPierre, a biologist with no demonstrated expertise on shale gas, who sits on the board of NB Power and channeled their wishes in his report. In return he was rewarded with the patronage job of chairmanship of the publicly funded Energy Institute that he, and he alone, had proposed – a new government entity that will cost taxpayers a million dollars in its first year.

It has listened to the self-interested banks via former premier Frank McKenna, who represents TD Bank – a major investor in Transcanada’s pipeline business, and a bank that makes fortunes from oil and gas mergers and acquisitions.

It has listened to Hawk Communications, a public relations firm it hired with at least $200,000 of taxpayer money, not to improve communications, but to help sell the LaPierre report. [Emphasis added]

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