The U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) proposed to lease offshore areas in Alaska’s northern coastal region, and undertook an environmental impact statement (EIS) to inform their decision making on this proposal. The North Slope Borough, in collaboration with the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (a nonprofit organization representing Alaska’s tribes), completed a rapid HIA of the draft EIS. Through a series of negotiations, the North Slope Borough convinced the MMS of the need to better address health impacts in its final EIS. Ultimately, the MMS included much of the HIA in the final EIS, under subsections on environmental justice. The HIA addressed a range of health effects, such as: 1) potential impacts on the traditional Alaska Native diet—high in fish and marine mammals—if oil and gas activities disturbed the region’s wildlife; 2) onshore social impacts for isolated Alaska Native communities if oil and gas facilities were located in or near the villages; 3) health risks posed by exposure to any air or water pollution that might occur; and 4) the use of oil and gas revenues to support local services important to health, such as public safety, fire and medical emergency response. IMPACT: This represents one of the first examples of a U.S. federal agency including information from an HIA in an EIS. The MMS did not, however, include measures that were proposed by the North Slope Borough, such as 1) monitoring contaminants in air and locally-harvested fish and game, 2) measures to protect the food supply, and 3) measures to address the social impacts (e.g., drug and alcohol abuse) that might be exacerbated by a large-scale influx of non-resident oil and gas workers to remote Alaska Native communities.
This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.