Funding cut for oil and gas health watchdog:Huntington
Victoria, B.C. – Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington says the government has cut funding for a watchdog organization that monitors the health effects of oil and gas operations.
“Northeastern British Columbians have serious concerns about the health effects of oil and gas operations, and the government should be actively responding to those issues,” says Huntington. “It should not be cutting funding to a recognized organization that has been monitoring those health impacts.”
The North East Oil and Gas Health Advisory Committee was founded in 2007. The committee is made up of community volunteers and includes experts in hydrology, air monitoring, and public health. It also includes representatives from industry, the Ministry of the Environment, First Nations, and the Provincial Health Services Authority.
“Until recently the group received administrative assistance from the Northern Health Authority, but that support has been cut,” says Huntington. “Why this government would cut the administrative support for an independent watchdog group is baffling.”
The Health Advisory Committee was a driving force behind the government’s human health risk assessment of oil and gas operations in the northeast. Two weeks ago Huntington asked the health minister why the government was withholding all research related to the assessment as well as the final report, which was to be completed in March 2014.
“I have yet to hear any meaningful reason why the government is sitting on data about human health,” says Huntington. “The official word is that it would be harmful to the government’s financial interests to release that data. One would think human health would come first.”
Huntington asked the Minister of Health about the cuts to the committee during Question Period today.
“It’s inexcusable that the North East Oil and Gas Health Advisory Committee has suddenly lost its government support,” said Huntington. “The very committee pushing for answers is effectively being forced to fold.”
The minister responded that he “would be happy to reach out to the advisory committee.”