Commentary

Lagging and Flagging: Air Pollution, Shale Gas Exploration and the Interaction of Policy, Science, Ethics and Environmental Justice in England

Citation

Watterson A & Dinan W (2020) Lagging and Flagging: Air Pollution, Shale Gas Exploration and the Interaction of Policy, Science, Ethics and Environmental Justice in England. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17 (12), Art. No.: 4320. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124320

Abstract
The science on the effects of global climate change and air pollution on morbidity and mortality is clear and debate now centres around the scale and precise contributions of particular pollutants. Sufficient data existed in recent decades to support the adoption of precautionary public health policies relating to fossil fuels including shale exploration. Yet air quality and related public health impacts linked to ethical and environmental justice elements are often marginalized or missing in planning and associated decision making. Industry and government policies and practices, laws and planning regulations lagged well behind the science in the United Kingdom. This paper explores the reasons for this and what shaped some of those policies. Why did shale gas policies in England fail to fully address public health priorities and neglect ethical and environmental justice concerns. To answer this question, an interdisciplinary analysis is needed informed by a theoretical framework of how air pollution and climate change are largely discounted in the complex realpolitik of policy and regulation for shale gas development in England. Sources, including official government, regulatory and planning documents, as well as industry and scientific publications are examined and benchmarked against the science and ethical and environmental justice criteria. Further, our typology illustrates how the process works drawing on an analysis of official policy documents and statements on planning and regulatory oversight of shale exploration in England, and material from industry and their consultants relating to proposed shale oil and gas development. Currently the oil, gas and chemical industries in England continue to dominate and influence energy and feedstock-related policy making to the detriment of ethical and environmental justice decision making with significant consequences for public health.

Keywords
shale exploration; air pollution; ethics; environmental justice

Journal
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: Volume 17, Issue 12

StatusPublished
Publication date30/06/2020
Publication date online30/06/2020
Date accepted by journal11/06/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31355
eISSN1660-4601