Science panel to scrutinize shale gas drilling, Workshop in D.C. to concentrate on pollution issues, Stephen Harper’s government withholds details of $16-million PR campaign for oil industry

Science panel to scrutinize shale gas drilling, Workshop in D.C. to concentrate on pollution issues by Dan Hopey, May 23, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A National Academy of Sciences committee will review a host of risks and public concerns associated with shale gas drilling operations nationwide — what’s known and much that isn’t — during a two-day workshop starting next Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C. Presentations at the gathering will focus on air and water pollution — and the health, economic, social and climate change impacts of shale gas development — but will stop short of making recommendations about how best to manage and mitigate them. “This review will be successful if the current state of knowledge about shale gas drilling is clarified and the uncertainties identified so we have better understanding and insights to help manage the risks,” said Mitchell Small, the NAS committee chair and Carnegie Mellon University professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will moderate a discussion this morning on a survey of concerns about lesser-studied drilling issues including impacts on rural quality of life, domestic animals, industry transparency and social justice. … In Canada, such a full investigative study is underway by the Council of Canadian Academies, with policy recommendations expected in December.

Mr. Stern said a limited set of risks is getting attention in the U.S. — the Environmental Protection Agency has been actively monitoring water issues, for example. But other issues — such as air quality, public health, climate change, and the “safety culture” of the drilling industry — have not been adequately studied. Bernard Goldstein, emeritus professor and dean at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, said there’s a lot that’s unknown about the impact of shale gas development activities on public health, and Pennsylvania’s failure to allocate any funding to study health impacts from the $180 million a year in impact fees it collected from gas drillers doesn’t help. “Seventeen state agencies, departments and commissions got impact fee funds but not a penny went to the state Department of Health,” said Dr. Goldstein…. [Emphasis added]

Stephen Harper’s government withholds details of $16-million PR campaign for oil industry, Minister wants to spend up to $16.5 million on advertising by Mike De Souza, May 22, 2013,
“This is a critical moment in the development of our natural resources, and therefore we have allocated a significant amount of money for advertising,” Oliver told a special committee studying spending estimates in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening. NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian said that the new spending represents a 7,000 per cent increase in advertising budgets at Natural Resources Canada since 2010-2011.

Oliver declined to say how much money was being spent in the U.S., or in Europe where the Harper government is lobbying against climate change legislation requiring a reduction in heat-trapping greenhouse gases from transportation fuels. He also declined to say whether any advertising money would be spent to promote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

In March of 2010, federal and Alberta government officials met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” for oilsands outreach and communications as part of a renewed strategy — promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former staffer, Bruce Carson — to “turn up the volume” on public relations and show that “issues are being addressed and we have the right attitude,” according to internal federal records previously released to Postmedia News.

“This is irresponsible,” said Garneau. “First you do your science.” [Emphasis added]

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