February 16, 2024
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Background Chemical stressors are not evenly distributed in space, nor do they exisit in isolation. Similarly, people are not exposed to one chemical stressor at a time, but rather are subject to multiple types of chemical and non-chemical stressors simultaneously. Cumulative impacts research that focuses on the totality of exposures from such stressors on health and well-being is needed of environmental justice advocates in order to address the overlapping environmental and social burdens experienced in many historically marginalized communities. Cumulative Impact Assessment has also recently been highlighted as an agency priority for the EPA in their efforts to better serve these communities. However, there is no standardized guidance or design for assessing the cumulative impacts of chemical and non-chemical stressors on health. Many templates or guidance documents are agency, regulation, or sector specific. Within the context of unconventional oil and gas (UOGD) development research, HEI Energy is uniquely positioned to synthesize what is already known from research funded by HEI Energy and other research conducted over the past two decades, and draw upon its network of expertise and history of community engagement, to produce a Cumulative Impact Assessment design for a representative oil and gas (O&G) community in the United States. Such a design could also serve as a model for similar analyses in other communities affected by the energy transition (e.g., hydrogen hub communities).
About the Webinar Series This webinar series is being co-organized by HEI’s EJ program and the HEI Energy program as part of HEI Energy’s special project: Designing a Cumulative Impact Assessment for an Oil and Gas Community in the United States. This series of webinars will inform the conceptualization the Cumulative Impact Assessment design for O&G communities and aims to bring together voices of academic researchers across the field of impact assessment and members of communities overburdened by pollution.
The primary objectives of the special project are as follows:
1. Support decision-making about how best to ensure the protection of public health.
2. Synthesize what is already known about UOGD exposures and health and well-being.
3. Inform decision-makers, communities, and others implementing cumulative impact assessments.
4. Educate on cumulative impacts research.
Overview of the Webinar. This webinar, co-organized by HEI Energy and HEI’s EJ program, will introduce the topic of cumulative impacts research and cumulative impact assessment. The primary goal is to gain a broad understanding of cumulative impact assessment, the state-of-science on cumulative impact research, examples of recent cumulative impact assessments, approaches used in conducting cumulative impact assessment, and the challenges and opportunities associated with designing and conducting these assessments.
The speakers will address the following questions:
1. What is cumulative impact assessment? How are cumulative impacts defined? How can these assessments contribute to health-protective decisions?
a. What types of chemical and non-chemical stressors and combinations of stressors are included in a cumulative impact assessment?
b. What types of approaches are used to conduct cumulative impact assessment?
2. What are the challenges and opportunities with cumulative impact assessment and underlying research in various policy contexts?
3. What do we need to understand about cumulative impact assessment to get the design right? What data and information do we need?