Law and Policy for Sustainability
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by John C. Dernbach and James R. May
Chapter 2: Sustainable drilling through health impact assessment: understanding and planning for public health impacts
This chapter evaluates the role of health impact assessment (HIA) HIA in fostering, to the extent possible, sustainable shale gas development. HIA is used to assess the human health impacts of building projects, programs, or policy changes on a given population using quantitative and qualitative methods while seeking to predict future health consequences of stakeholder decisions in order to inform the decision-making process.’ Because sustainability requires consideration of how a proposal, project, or policy will affect the use of non-renewable natural resources, the availability of water and fertile land, and the pollution of air, water, and land, HIA can play an invaluable role in the development and implementation of strategies for sustainable drilling. Specifically, the advancement of sustainable development practices in the area of unconventional gas extraction requires a tool such as HIA to provide a long-term view of projects and policies, considering not only impacts in the near future but also ramifications of those practices that will affect future generations. This long-term view necessary for sustainability poses difficult questions for proposals that bring welcome and often needed immediate benefits that may deplete the resources available to future generations. This chapter suggests that HIA can be used to inform and educate decision makers regarding the health implications of shale gas extraction by identifying potential positive and negative health impacts at all stages of drilling, identifying alternatives to maximize benefits of proposed actions, mitigating negative effects to the built environment, and promoting and/or improving the health of a given ‘target’ population in line with sustainable development.
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