Shale gas opponents want the government of New Brunswick to release the Chief Medical Officer’s health study on shale gas after it was revealed on Tuesday, Oct. 2nd that the government would not be releasing it. They are asking the public to write Premier David Alward and their MLA and demand the release of the study.
“The health implications of introducing shale gas development in this province is one of the most important issues facing New Brunswickers today. We demand that the Alward government release the report immediately and to neither delay nor censor it,” says Dr. Caroline Lubbe-D’Arcy, a dentist based in Fredericton.
Stephanie Merrill, the Fresh Water Program Director at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, agrees with Dr. Lubbe-D’Arcy. “New Brunswickers are asking questions like how is shale gas development going to affect their health and the health of their family. These important questions need answers before we make any move on shale gas,” says Merrill.
Dr. Eilish Cleary, the Chief Medical Officer, was tasked with examining the potential public health impacts of shale gas development and making recommendations aimed at preventing or mitigating those potential public health effects. According to a Department of Health spokesperson, Dr. Cleary’s report is finished but the government has decided not to release it.
The New Brunswick College of Family Physicians passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas last April. The association, which represents 700 doctors in the province, wants a moratorium put into place until studies are done and it can be shown that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Shale gas opponents say hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) for shale gas is a public health concern because the industry has a track record of leaving behind contaminated drinking water, polluted air and emotional duress at its sites of operation in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the State of New York will have to wait until a review of the industry’s potential public health effects is done says New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The New Brunswick health study was supposed to be released in September.
Meaningful public consultation is another concern of the shale gas opponents.
“MLAs should hold meaningful public consultations on whether to allow or not allow shale gas development in New Brunswick. This consultation should start with legislative hearings, and later include public meetings on the government’s final recommendations,” says Dr. Lubbe-D’Arcy.
Shale gas opponents have noted that the Alward Conservatives criticized the previous Graham Liberal government for its lack of public consultation on the proposed sale of NB Power.
“The Alward government is guilty of the same undemocratic actions of forcing a decision on New Brunswickers that could very well harm us in the future,” says Dr. Lubbe-D’Arcy.