Oil drilling site on the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: AFEK OIL AND GAS)
It’s common to hear about the environmental impact of oil drilling, especially the kind that requires hydraulic fracturing – commonly called fracking – but one government official said recently that there may be other unintended consequences of the process.
Dr. Zohar Barnett-Itzhaki told the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee on Monday that “studies from recent years have shown that there is a negative affect on all those who are near unconventional drilling sites.”
Among the health concerns he cited were babies born underweight, and issues with infants’ hearts and central nervous systems. He said the drilling also influences those with recurring illnesses, adding that there is a correlation between drilling areas and the increased incidence of hospitalization.
Since early 2015, Afek Oil and Gas has been carrying exploratory drilling for conventional oil in a 39,500-hectare concession south of Katzrin in the Golan Heights.
The firm has so far carried out exploratory drilling at three sites, though it is permitted to drill at 10 locations.
Environmental groups have often voiced their concerns that petroleum in the region was likely “tight oil,” which could require non-conventional drilling procedures such as fracking. The health aspect of hydraulic drilling is not usually mentioned.
Barnett-Yitzhaki said that although the Energy, Infrastructure and Water Resources Ministry has done its own testing and released recommendations, they have not been implemented.
The fiery session charged up after the ministry announced that it would set up a special committee for hydraulic fracturing technologies used to drill for oil and gas.
In contrast, Shlomo Ben Eliayhu, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry, told those at the meeting that up until this point, he has not heard anyone in the government opposed to fracking.
Amir Erez, an official from the Environmental Protection Committee, told the group that it would be wise to consider whether fracking is necessary at all.