Policy: Environment & Energy

Fracking poses 'low' risk to public health, says UK government

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Beltway Confidential,United Kingdom,EPA,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Fracking

More bad news for anti-fracking activists.

Experts at Public Health England are seeking public comment on a draft report that shows a “low” risk of adverse health problems due to the extraction of shale gas - natural gas found within shale formations.

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE's Center for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards.

The PHE is part of the British Department of Health.

The report also found contamination of groundwater due to the extraction process to be “unlikely,” because of how deep the process occurs.

“Contamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself (i.e., the fracturing of the shale) is unlikely,” the report said.

“However, surface spills of fracking fluids or waste water may affect groundwater; and emissions to air also have the potential to impact on health,” the report said.

But, the report makes clear, “the reported problems are typically a result of operational failure and a poor regulatory environment.”

currently, shale gas is not commercially extracted in the U.K., so the report used data from countries that are using the process, including the U.S.

Despite frequent claims by anti-fracking activists that the process contaminates groundwater and causes everything from sexually transmitted diseases to bee deaths, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson assured Congress earlier this year that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu and current Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz have also said that fracking is safe.

The comment period for the report will last for one month.

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