Unconventional gas extraction ('fracking') is likely to be central to the energy policy of president-elect Donald Trump. I urge the US Congress to tighten current regulations and strike a balance between energy independence and the safeguarding of public health and the environment (see also J. C. S. Long Nature 539, 495; 2016).
The shale-gas revolution has given the United States a security blanket for energy, at a cost to the environment and to health (see M. L. Finkel and J. Hays J. Epidemiol. Community Health 70, 221–222; 2016). Several European countries and US states (including New York, Maryland and parts of California, Colorado and Texas) have therefore issued a moratorium on fracking.
This means that the US energy-policy debate needs a strong public-health and environmental presence. Before drilling starts, it is crucial to collect baseline data to track any related increase in morbidity and mortality. During the extraction process, environmental monitoring will be needed to assess air pollution and its impact; and details of all chemicals used in the process must be disclosed. Flowback fluids should be properly disposed of to protect surface and groundwater. These safeguards will help to counter potential harm to human health and the environment.
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