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BC reviewing oil and gas industry health risks

The British Columbia ministry of health is seeking a contractor to begin looking at public health risks related to the oil and gas sector.

"There is a broad range of stakeholder concerns over public health related to oil and gas development in northeast British Columbia that have been raised by the public, Northern Health Authority, medical health officers, local government and non-government organizations," the request for proposals said.

"To address these concerns, a human health risk assessment will be carried out following the completion of targeted stakeholder engagement under this request for proposal," it said. "The results of the stakeholder engagement will inform the scope of the human health risk assessment."

The deadline for bids on the $100,000 contract is Nov. 17, 2011 and the work is expected to begin in the new year and be completed by March 31, 2012.

The Tyee reported in May that B.C. ministers were planning such a review, focused on the health effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process of injecting rock formations with water, chemicals and sand to break them apart and allow the fossil fuels they contain to be extracted.

Opponents say the process uses toxic substances, contaminates groundwater and may include the dangerous release of sour gas.

The RFP covers the first of a three-phase project. "The goal is to determine stakeholder and public views and concerns of human health hazards and environmental quality (water, soil and air), to develop subject areas for inquiry and review," the RFP said.

"A follow-up to this stakeholder and targeted public engagement project will be a human health risk assessment of the oil and gas sector based on scientific review, incorporating the subject areas identified in the engagements from this project."

That assessment may lead to to recommendations on improving what the industry does and how it is regulated and monitored, it said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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