The human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger, has called on the UK government to ban fracking until there is an understanding of its effects on human rights.
Speaking at the launch of a new report on the issue yesterday, Ms Jagger urged the government to “investigate the human rights impact of fracking before authorising any exploratory or extractive fracking operation”.
She said the human rights impact assessment should be independent, transparent and publicly-funded. A moratorium on fracking should be in place until the assessment had been undertaken and placed in the public domain.
Ms Jagger, whose Human Rights Foundation commissioned the report, said: “In spite of all the evidence available, our government would like us to believe in the rhetoric of safe regulation, job creation and cheap clean energy to bridge a gap in our energy needs.”
“The truth is that fracking causes contamination of aquifers, leakage of toxic chemicals into the ground, air pollution, earthquakes and increased road traffic and, if allowed to go ahead unchallenged, it will forever alter England’s glorious countryside.
“I think it is really important that the public at large have the right to see how it will impact on their human rights”.
She criticised the government’s plans in the Infrastructure Bill to change the law on trespass so that oil and gas companies could drill and store materials below 300m without landowners’ permission.
Ms Jagger said: “The rewriting of the law is being introduced despite widespread public concern about the health and environmental impacts of fracking and in the face of overwhelming public resistance from ordinary people. The Infrastructure Bill is a flagrant violation of our basic human rights and of all democratic principles”.
The report, produced by five academics, concluded that core human rights were threatened by fracking. It said it would be a “serious failure of responsibility” for the government to proceed without an adequate assessment of the impact of fracking.
Apart from impacts on public health, the report said fracking threatened core rights to:
- Respect for home and private life
- Peaceful enjoyment of possessions
One of the authors, Damien Short, said policymakers in the UK needed to look at increasing evidence on the impact of fracking from the US. He said this included work by social scientists on how people were experiencing living with fracking, particularly over the longer term.
Referring to work in Colorado, he said: “Even when there is significant cash incentives early on, after a few years communities are basically coming out and saying, unanimously, in the studies that have been done so far, that the negatives outweigh the benefits”.
He said there needed to be a broader analysis of the impacts, not just looking at what was going on underground. “Some studies coming out of the US are finding that one of the biggest dangers is big trucks, small roads and a lot of deaths have come from that.”
Another author, Anna Grear, said: “It is not good enough that the government has taken so little heed of the opinions expressed by ordinary people all over this country who absolutely feel to the depth of their being that they do not want to risk pollution accidents and the health and environmental effects of this technology.”
She said the European Court of Human Rights was requiring nation states to warn citizens about environmental risk, take steps to reduce these risks and to give citizens the right to participate in environmental decision-making. “It is very difficult to see how this government has honoured any of those standards”, she said.
- The report, A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing and Other Unconventional Gas Development in the United Kingdom, is being sent to the Chancellor George Osborne, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss.
- Yesterday’s issue of The Ecologist has articles by Damian Short and Jess Elliot on fracking and its effect on civil and political rights and by Anna Grear on why fracking makes human rights more important than ever.