Extreme Energy, ‘Fracking’ and Human Rights: A New Field for Human Rights Impact Assessments?

Following our co-authored report for the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, this is the second output from the Extreme Energy Initiative’s research project on the human rights implications of fracking.


This paper explores the potential human rights impacts of the ‘extreme energy’ process, specifically focusing 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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