Health study may examine impact of shale gas sector
Chief medical officer will issue recommendations in the summer
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health says she will make recommendations later this summer on how the provincial government will track the health effects of the shale gas industry.
Dr. Eilish Cleary said she has been looking at what other provinces and U.S. jurisdictions have done to monitor any health effects caused by hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly known as hydro-fracking.
She said it will be important to try to measure any effects of the industry, if it were to settle in New Brunswick, but doing so could be expensive.
"It is fair to recognize that there would need to be some investment in resources and infrastructure to ensure that the negative impacts are mitigated and minimized," she said.
'Health assessment would be an important component of our recommendations. It's certainly by no means an easy thing to do, to measure impacts from industry.'— Dr. Eilish Cleary
Cleary said if there are economic benefits from the shale gas industry, that could help cover some of the costs involved with measuring the health impacts.
In the United States, critics have called for health impact studies to measure illnesses near hydro-fracking sites and to determine whether the industry has caused any negative health effects.
Cleary said she will suggest to the New Brunswick government that such studies be done here.
"Health assessment would be an important component of our recommendations. It's certainly by no means an easy thing to do, to measure impacts from industry," she said.
The province’s top public health official said the tests may be expensive and may not be conclusive.
Cleary said New Brunswick's small population could hinder the studies.
The New Brunswick government has released its new regulations that will govern the oil and gas sector.
Environment Minister Bruce Fitch and Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup unveiled the changes, which include a new royalty framework that would ensure more money flows into the provincial coffers and to property owners and communities.
There will also be stiffer fines imposed on companies that break rules in the province.
Northrup said it is unlikely that any hydro-fracking will be done this year in New Brunswick.
He said the new rules will be in place in case the industry sets up in the province in the future.