Gas drilling is leaving a trail of pollution across Pennsylvania

The faster the gas industry grows, the bigger the swath of destruction it leaves across Pennsylvania.

Already, gas companies employing a dangerous form of drilling known as “hydrofracking” have contaminated our drinking water with benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and other dangerous contaminants; dumped under-treated wastewater in rivers and streams from the Monongahela to Neshaminy Creek; and clearcut our state forestland to make way for gas wells.

At risk: The health of our environment and communities

Countless Pennsylvanians living close to gas wells have seen their lives turn upside down. Families living in the shadow of gas drilling face explosions mere feet from their doorsteps, polluted tap water that is unsafe to drink, toxic fumes in the air they breathe, and more:

  • Pat Farnelli and her kids suffered excruciating stomach pain whenever they drank tap water. Despite industry denials, the DEP concluded that nearby drilling had contaminated 19 water wells in Pat’s town.
  • Health experts are finding increased air pollution near drilling sites, and residents living near gas operations have consistently experienced dizziness and nosebleeds.
  • Dimock resident Norma Fiorentino’s personal water well exploded in her front yard on New Year’s Day in 2009. State investigators found that Cabot’s nearby drilling had caused the well to fill up with combustible methane gas.
  • June Chapel feared for her safety and was forced to stay indoors when the toxic wastewater pit in her backyard caught on fire.
  • The Johnson family was forced to quarantine 28 head of cattle on their farm after they came in contact with toxic gas drilling fluid.
  • Watch our Marcellus Shale Stories video series to learn more about how drilling impacts the lives of Pennsylvanians.

These stories only scratch the surface. It all adds up to one simple, powerful message: The drilling happening across Pennsylvania is dangerous to our environment, and to Pennsylvanians like you and me. And gas companies are either unwilling or unable to drill safely.

Gas companies have friends in high places

What are our leaders in Harrisburg doing while the gas industry runs amok? At best, they’re turning a blind eye. At worst, they’re working with industry lobbyists to loosen up the rules even more.

With the backing of Gov. Corbett and his friends in the Legislature, the gas industry is pushing a set of policies that will make it even easier for them to run roughshod over our environment. We need your help to stop this from happening.

With our activism and advocacy, we can stop the dangers of gas drilling

With your help, we’re working to stop this runaway train from rolling right through our communities, spoiling our water, forests and air in its wake.

It won’t be easy, especially with a governor who’s pocketed huge sums from drilling companies and a Legislature that refuses to stand up to him.

But we’re in this fight for the long haul. With your help, we’re building the vocal public outcry that’s needed against drilling — a voice that will be too loud for the lobbyists to drown out, and too loud for our legislators to ignore. And our strategy starts at the grassroots:

  • We’re going to inform and educate 100,000 people about the threats of gas drilling.
  • PennEnvironment Field Director Adam Garber is holding Citizen Organizer trainings across the state to teach 1,000 Pennsylvanians the skills they need defend their communities from gas drilling. Sign up for our email alerts to learn about upcoming trainings near you.
  • Clean Water Advocate Erika Staaf is releasing hard-hitting reports exposing the damage the gas industry has already caused.
  • We’re collecting petitions to hold our legislators’ feet to the fire, and turning up the heat on Gov. Corbett as the next election approaches, so that he knows the public is not happy with his gas-industry-fueled policies.

Thousands of you have already joined the fight. Across the Commonwealth, you’re calling or emailing your legislators, signing petitions, spreading the word to your friends and family, and attending hearings. We need many more people like you to join with us, and send a strong message that the health of Pennsylvania’s environment and communities is more important than short-term political gain.

Join our campaign by sending your legislators a message today.


Drilling Updates

News Release | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

New Study Shows Threat Posed to Parks and Forests by Fracking

Today the citizen-based environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment released its newest study, “Frack Attack” which showed the far-reaching threat that gas drilling poses to parks, forests and public lands across Pennsylvania.

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Report | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Frack Attack: Pennsylvania's parks and forests threatened by drilling

Pennsylvania is blessed with incredible public lands, from the famed hiking paths and scenic vistas of Loyalsock and Cook State Forests, to the pristine woods and walking trails of the Delaware Water Gap. Unfortunately, many of these places are under threat from fracking.

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News Release | PennEnvironment

Budget Passage Puts Pennsylvania at Risk

 The fiscal code bill that passed both chambers included a one-time influx of $95 million in revenue from reopening state forests and, for the first time ever, opening up state parks for new unconventional natural gas leasing.

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News Release | PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center

Pennsylvania Health Professionals Call for a Stop to Fracking

Philadelphia, PA – PennEnvironment delivered a letter from 85 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in Pennsylvania to President Obama asserting that fracking should be stopped, given the overwhelming threats to public health. This was part of a nationwide effort by the organization’s federal arm, Environment America to deliver similar letters to decision-makers from more than 1,000 health professionals nationwide.

“Fracking is making people sick—period. Pennsylvania families are already suffering from dangerous air pollution and water contamination caused by dirty drilling,” said Lina Blount, Field Organizer for PennEnvironment. “Pennsylvania doctors and nurses are giving our elected officials a clear prescription to ensure the health of their constituents—stop issuing new permits for fracking until they can ensure these health impacts won’t happen again. The question is are they ready to take the medicine.”

The letters, which include signers from all 50 states, come as public awareness of the health and environmental impacts of fracking is on the rise. In one striking example, last month a peer-reviewed study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found an increased rate of birth defects in babies born to mothers in Colorado who lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells.

Fracking has spread rapidly across Pennsylvania in the last five years, and its effect on public health and the environment is increasingly taking its toll. There is a growing number of documented cases of individuals suffering acute and chronic health effects while living near fracking operations—including nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. Physicians reviewing medical records in Pennsylvania have called these illnesses “the tip of the iceberg” of fracking impacts on health.

“As a nurse and geologist, I am increasingly concerned with the health and environmental impacts of fracking to Pennsylvania communities.  In following the principal of 'do no harm', it is crucial that our elected leaders hold industries accountable, putting health first,” said Nina Kaktins, RN of 25 years currently at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

PennEnvironment released the letter from health professionals today, as recent disasters, including a gas line rupture under the Raritan River and a well-pad explosion in Dillinger, add to the growing list of gas industry disasters. The industry has also committed more than 4,300 environmental violations in Pennsylvania to date.

Fracking operations have contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Leaks and spills of fracking fluid, which often contain known carcinogens (e.g. benzene) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, have polluted rivers and streams. Fracking wastewater—often laced with heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) and radioactive materials (e.g. radon, uranium)—has leached from hundreds of waste pits into groundwater.

Air contaminants released from fracking operations include volatile organic compounds (VOCs); some are carcinogenic, and some damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health found that people living within a half-mile of gas fracking wells had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away.

Despite these impacts, fracking is exempt from key provisions of the nation’s leading public health and environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the law that regulates hazardous waste.

In the letter delivered today, the health professionals call on President Obama and EPA Administrator McCarthy to close the loopholes that exempt fracking from key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws. Health professionals from Pennsylvania and nationwide are also calling for immediate action for our elected officials to do everything in their power to halt more gas drilling where it’s already happening.

“Fracking is a public health emergency. To protect Pennsylvanians and communities across the country exposed to fracking, President Obama and EPA administrator McCarthy should close the hazardous waste loopholes that allow fracking to threaten our health in ways that no other industry can.” concluded Blount.

 

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PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center is a state-based, citizen-funded, environmental advocacy organization working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

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