New Brunswick shale gas health report prompts debate, report on Dr. Eilish Cleary’s presentation in Moncton

NB Shale gas health report prompts debate by Ocean Resources, November 15, 2012
Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, spoke at a public meeting Wednesday night at the Moncton Community Peace Centre to discuss the findings of her report, which was released in September. … At the beginning of her presentation, Cleary says she’s had comments from people in the province saying that she should “get her nose out of the shale gas business and go back to writing prescriptions.” “My specialty, as a medical doctor, is public health practices, which means I look after populations of people,” Cleary said. “It’s my job to do reports like this.”

The report, in which Cleary says that within the province’s current industry “infrastructure, capacity, processes and legislation are not adequate to meet the needs,” calls for tougher regulations before going ahead with any development of the resource. Her team, comprised of Dr. Todd Arsenault, the Health Department’s senior scientific advisor, Karen White, the director of the province’s Healthy Environments unit, and several others, issued 30 public health-related recommendations in the report. They urge the province to create a monitoring network for ambient air and water quality before, during and after activity in areas where the industry is expected to have a presence. Stepped-up funding for long-term monitoring of the health, social and other effects of the industry is also recommended.

An issue that came up during the evening, and that Cleary stated as fact, is that although the province says it will look at the report thoroughly, government is not mandated to implement the recommendations made by those who work to protect the public’s health. Government is only bound by the Public Health Act.

Patricia Leger of Memramcook told the forum that she is worried about the expanding density of shale gas mining sites in North America and reports from those inside the industry stating that the economic benefits are inflated. “We recently heard from a rock fracture mechanic who spoke at the Capitol Theatre, saying it’s too early for this development and we need to sit on it for a while,” said Leger. She explained that the man, Dr. Tony Ingraffea, one of Time Magazine’s 50 People Who Matter in 2011, is touring for free, for the sake of his grandchildren, to warn about the negative effects of shale gas mining. She said that someone in the crowd asked what he thought of New Brunswick having the toughest shale development regulations in the world. “He answered that the same statement follows the industry wherever it goes in the world and told us ‘frankly, you’re babes in the woods here’,” Leger said.

Residents concerned about health impacts of shale gas industry by Allan Dearing, November 15, 2012, News919
What are the potential health impacts of the shale gas industry? New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health tried to provide answers at a public forum in Moncton last night. About 200 residents gathered at the Community Peace Centre to hear Dr. Eilish Cleary outline some of the air, water and noise concerns the industry could create. … “What are the risks… in terms of water, what do we know about water and the hydrology around the area?  Is there any way we can monitor the problems,” she noted. Cleary admitted how the provincial government proceeds on the shale gas industry is beyond her control. She also noted her recent report provides recommendations to the province but is not binding on government.

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