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Fracking’ and Human Rights: A New Field for Human Rights Impact Assessments?

Authors: Damien Short, Jessica Elliot, Kadin Norder, Edward Lloyd-Davies and Joanna Morley, (2015) 

This paper explores the potential human rights impacts of the ‘extreme energy’ process, specifically focussing  on the  production  of  shale  gas,  coal-bed methane  (CBM),  and  ‘tight  oil’,  known colloquially as ‘fracking’. The paper locates the discussion within a broader context of resource
depletion,  the  ‘limits  to  growth’,  and  the  process  of  extreme  energy itself. 

Utilising  recent secondary data from the United States and Australia, combined with the preliminary findings of our ethnographic  fieldwork  in  the  United  Kingdom,  the  paper  outlines  a prima  facie case  for investigating ‘fracking’ development through a human rights lens. Indeed, based on considerable emerging evidence we argue that ‘fracking’ development poses a significant risk to a range of key human  rights and  should  thus form  the  subject  of  a  multitude  of comprehensive,  interdisciplinary, Human  Rights  Impact  Assessments (HRIAs)  as  a  matter  of  urgency.

Finally, given  the  close relationships between government and extractive industries, we argue that these impact assessments must  do  more  than  bolster  Corporate  Social  Responsibility  (CSR)  statements  and  should  be  truly independent of either government or industry influence.

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