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How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania

From the summary report:

The shale gas (and oil) boom enabled by horizontal hydraulic fracturing has been accompanied by increasing reports of health problems attributed to pollution from oil and gas development. The relationship between expanding development and health problems is hotly disputed—and is the focus of this research project.

The primary reasons that public health risks posed by increasing gas development are disputed:

  • A lack of established science. Widespread scientific investi- gation has only recently begun to investigate the relation- ship between gas development and public health impacts.
  • State governments, which are largely responsible for pro- tecting the public from irresponsible oil and gas develop- ment, have until recently refused to consider the issue.
  • Even as they have become widespread, individual reports of health problems in the gas patch have been continu- ally dismissed as anecdotal by industry and government.

With these reasons in mind, in 2011-2012, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) investigated and documented the experiences of residents and some air and water quality parameters in portions of Pennsylvania’s gas patches.

The project's main conclusions are:

  1. Contaminants associated with oil and gas development are present in air and water in many communities where development is occurring.
  2. Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before—indicating the strong possibility that they are occurring because of gas development.
  3. By permitting widespread gas development without fully understanding its impacts to public health—and using that lack of knowledge to justify regulatory inaction—Pennsylvania and other states are risking the public’s health.

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