Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bad Air, Bad Water, Bad Health

Fracking a well near home in PA

Yesterday NY State Senator David Carlucci told the press that the state senate is considering a delay of fracking until some health studies are complete. He told AP reporter Michael Gormley, "We have to put science first; we have to put the health of New Yorkers first."


  • NY  Dept. of Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah is still working on the health review that should determine whether the final draft SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) adequately identifies potential public health impacts of fracking;
  • Geisinger Health System in PA is studying the impact of Marcellus shale gas mining on health;
  • DEP investigators have found two new cases in Dimock, where methane concentrations in private water wells pose an explosion hazard.

But while the NY legislators await results from those studies, there is a wealth of data indicating that gas drilling is not healthy for children and other living things. Especially living things that depend on breathing.

Consider: Pennsylvania recently completed an air pollution study. The overall results weren’t bad. But pollution from shale gas activity has brought pollution to areas that were previously unpolluted.

This reflects what’s been happening in rural areas out west. Vernal, UT saw high levels of ozone and other pollutants resulting from gas drilling. And last July, Sublette County and portions of Lincoln County WY were declared to be in marginal “non-attainment for ozone” under the Clean Air Act. That means they exceeded the federal 8-hour average threshold of 75 parts per billion (ppb), a standard meant to protect human health.

Certainly these impacts aren’t going to hit everyone equally. “Healthy” people in Fort Worth, TX for example may not feel any ill effects, but susceptible populations – children, elderly, people with chronic respiratory and/or cardiac problems – will feel the impacts. And, as has happened in a number of cases, one neighbor’s well may be contaminated while another well escapes harm – at least for a while.

As a wise and compassionate teacher reminded those who were blessed: care for the least of these (who are not so blessed)… for whatever you do for them, you do for me.


  1. This is powerful. I love how you begin with that amazing photo that might be called "Corporate Takeover Gone Wild".
    If I lose all of my fracking files except for yours, I have the whole truth about fracking in a single folder...the whole dirty truth.

    1. Check out all those cool blogs and sites over in the right-hand column - they all have good info and lots of links.

  2. Great article--thank you. Another important point to keep in mind is that the amount of fracking that has occurred in PA to date is a tiny fraction of what would be needed to fully exploit the shale. As more and more wells are drilled and fracked, and more and more compressor stations are built, the percentage of the state's total air pollution that is due to shale gas development is likely to climb and climb and climb....

  3. I'm happy to see NYer's are valued much more than in PA.; their health and well-being is first and not money and jobs from the industry.

    1. Not sure we're more "valued" - just that the gas rush was slower in coming here and after Dimock, when people saw that "just drilling" could cause problems, and after Chesapeake and Fortuna got their hands slapped over fraudulent leases, people started waking up. It could just be the fate of politics... what with the gov having one eye on 2016.