Methods and Ways Forward for Assessing Cumulative Impacts

June 25, 2024  
12:30 pm

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Background Chemical and non-chemical stressors are not evenly distributed in an environment, nor do they operate in isolation. Similarly, people are not exposed to one stressor at a time, but rather are subject to multiple types of stressors from the natural, built, and social environments simultaneously. Cumulative impacts research that focuses on the totality of exposures (both beneficial and adverse) from such stressors on health and well-being is needed in order to address the overlapping environmental and social burdens experienced by many communities, including historically marginalized communities. Cumulative Impact Assessment has also recently been highlighted as a priority for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its 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 well-positioned to synthesize what is already known from HEI Energy’s currently funded research and what has been learned about the adverse and beneficial impacts on communities over the past two decades to produce a Cumulative Impact Assessment design for a representative oil and gas 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 was co-organized by HEI’s Environmental Justice program and Energy Research Program as part of a special project: Designing a Cumulative Impact Assessment for an Oil and Gas Community in the United States. This series of webinars informed the conceptualization of the design for oil and gas communities and aims to bring together voices from academia, government, industry, and communities across the field of impact assessment.

The primary objectives of the special project are as follows:
1.    Synthesize what is known about unconventional oil and gas development exposures and health and well-being. 
2.    Support decision-making about how best to ensure the protection of public health by identifying the most important health stressors.
3.    Learn from our collective experience in oil and gas communities to protect future energy communities.
4.    Inform policymakers, communities, researchers, and others implementing cumulative impact assessments on specific methodologies.
5.    Educate on cumulative impacts research.

Overview of the Webinar This webinar explored research related to cumulative impacts and cumulative impact assessment, and highlighted the state-of-the-science in the field. The objective was to illustrate how the combined effects of chemical and non-chemical stressors have been characterized in research and policy contexts, what methodologies currently exist or are being explored to conduct cumulative impacts research, what research is needed to support cumulative impact assessment, and potential paths forward to support meaningful cumulative impact assessment that supports health-protective policy.

The speakers discussed the following questions:
1.    In what context was your assessment or research related to cumulative impacts or risks conducted and to support what types of decisions?
2.    What methodologies have been or could be used to conduct cumulative impacts assessment? What stressors are typically characterized and prioritized (or should be characterized)? How are non-chemical stressors being incorporated into cumulative impacts research? 
3.    How has community engagement factored into cumulative impacts research and projects? What has been learned from these efforts?
4.    What data and information are missing, incomplete, or not publicly available that would be useful in advancing this work?
5.    In the context of the current policy and regulatory landscape regarding cumulative impacts in the U.S., what do you see as the way forward in terms of methods for assessing cumulative impacts?


Welcome and Introduction

Yasmin Romitti, HEI Nicole Deziel, Yale School of Public Health

Analyzing Chemical and Non-Chemical Stressors for Cumulative Impacts

Nicolle Tulve, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The External Exposome as a Method for Cumulative Impact Assessment

Jaime Hart, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Discussion with Q&A

All Speakers; moderated by Nicole Deziel, Yale School of Public Health

Wrap up

Nicole Deziel, Yale School of Public Health


United States

Virtual meeting space

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