Online Program

Shale gas extraction in North Carolina: Public health implications and prevention

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Adrian Down, Ph.D. candidate, Duke University, Ecology, Duke University, Durham, NC
Martin Armes, Executive Director, Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative, Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative, Raleigh, NC
The North Carolina legislature recently took steps towards legalizing hydraulic fracturing and sits in a unique position amongst oil and gas producing states. In creating an oil and gas regulatory framework, North Carolina legislators have the opportunity to build from scratch. This framework can incorporate experiences from other states and accommodate current technology better than regulations made when fracking was not yet widespread. Water quality data could be collected for North Carolina aquifers potentially affected by fracking. The opportunity to gather such background data, collected before any type of oil or gas drilling takes place, is no longer available in many other places where fracking occurs.

In October 2012, the Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative assembled 125 experts for a Shale Gas Extraction Summit on Public Health Implications and Prevention to consider the potential future of fracking. Attendees represented academia, industry, local, state and federal government and public interest groups and met for two days to develop a list of recommendations to benefit North Carolina and other states.

The summit aimed to create a neutral space in which experts could share ideas and experiences as they worked to identify gaps in the current knowledge of, and preparations for, fracking and its potential impacts specifically on North Carolina. The desired outcome of this summit was a set of recommended actions and policies to preserve the health of North Carolina's citizens and environment if fracking occurs in the state.

The summit included three working groups focused on three different topics related to fracking: exposure pathways, health impacts, and social impacts. For example, a recommendation that emerged from all three groups is the importance of collecting background water quality data before any oil or gas drilling occurs. The final work product of recommendations should be complete in March/April 2013.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Public health or related education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Explain the recommendations generated at an October 2012 Shale Gas Extraction Summit on Public Health Implications and Prevention and hosted by the Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative. Note that the recommendation document will be finalized by April 2013. Identify and discuss various best practices for North Carolina and other states that "frack" to extract and transport natural gas. Describe how North Carolina is currently developing legislation that balances environmental health and business interests in advance of being able to start "fracking" in October 2014.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My Ph.D. research focuses on the ecological and human health impacts of natural gas drilling, including fracking. I have performed field studies in North Carolina assessing the water quality in the region in advance of fracking. I was a participant at the 2012 Environmental Health Collaborative's summit on the potential health impacts of fracking in North Carolina and was the primary author of the resulting report (on which this abstract is based).
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.