The impact of fracking on house prices

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

‘Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.’

A secret report into the impact of fracking on house prices should and will be published, energy minister Andrea Leadsom has said, opening up a rift with the environment department over the controversial issue.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which commissioned the report, published parts of it last year in response to a request from campaigners but redacted 63 passages.

The Information Commissioner ordered earlier this month that the report be published in full but Defra, which fought to keep it secret, has so far failed to do so.

Responding to questions from MPs, Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, said on Tuesday that the report “is going to be published” and said she believed “it should be made available to the public, so that they can draw their own conclusions”.

The position is at odds with Defra, which on Tuesday confirmed it was still considering its options – including a potential appeal against publication.

Fracking could wipe tens of thousands of pounds off house prices

Defra has 28 days from the Information Commissioner’s June 18 decision to lodge an appeal. If it doesn’t appeal it must publish it within 35 days of the decision or be deemed in contempt of court.

The department, headed by Liz Truss, has claimed the report is “inaccurate and potentially misleading” and that its publication would be “damaging”.

Among the redacted parts of the report were several sections on the “impact on housing demand and property prices”, fuelling fears that ministers who are in favour of fracking were hiding evidence about its drawbacks.

The Information Commissioner said the full document should be published as there was a “a strong public interest” in the Government’s policy on fracking and research on it.

The split within Government emerged the day after it suffered a major setback in its hopes of developing a UK shale gas industry as councillors in Lancashire threw out a proposal from Cuadrilla to frack in the county.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, Ms Leadsom said those who opposed shale should not be labelled nimbys or luddites but rather people who “need to understand better”.

She said: “I would never call those with local, very well founded concerns nimbys or luddites. Plenty of people in my constituency have concerns about all manner of things, ranging from HS2 to wind farms, to anaerobic digestion plants.

“They are not nimbys or luddites, but local communities who need to understand better. My priority will be to reassure them and, yes, to use an element of persuasion… We need to take local people with us, so that will be my absolute focus.”

The Supreme Court’s Ruling On Mercury Pollution

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In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the Supreme Court found fault with the EPA’s regulation of toxic heavy metal pollution from coal and oil-fired plants, claiming that the agency failed to prove the regulations “appropriate and necessary” because they did not initially take costs into consideration.

To Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the Court’s dissent, that reasoning failed to acknowledge all the other times the EPA took cost into consideration throughout the regulatory process.

As Kagan wrote:

That is a peculiarly blinkered way for a court to assess the lawfulness of an agency’s rulemaking. I agree with the majority — let there be no doubt about this — that EPA’s power plant regulation would be unreasonable if ‘[t]he Agency gave cost no thought at all.’ … But that is just not what happened here. Over more than a decade, EPA took costs into account at multiple stages and through multiple means as it set emissions limits for power plants. And when making its initial ‘appropriate and necessary’ finding, EPA knew it would do exactly that — knew it would thoroughly consider the cost-effectiveness of emissions standards later on. That context matters.

When first deciding to regulate mercury pollution from power plants, Kagan noted that the EPA made its decision based on the fact “that power plants’ emissions pose a serious health problem, that solutions to the problem are available, and that the problem will remain unless action is taken.”

Kagan said the EPA didn’t consider costs in the first stage of the regulatory process because it knew that it would have a chance to consider costs later on.

“[T]he Agency, when making its ‘appropriate and necessary’ finding, did not decline to consider costs as part of the regulatory process,” she wrote. “Rather, it declined to consider costs at a single stage of that process, knowing that they would come in later on.”

Later in the dissent, Kagan argued that it would be impossible for an agency to anticipate all the consequences of a particular regulation during the regulation’s very first stages:

Suppose you were in charge of designing a regulatory process. The subject matter — an industry’s emissions of hazardous material — was highly complex, involving multivarious factors demanding years of study. Would you necessarily try to do everything at once? Or might you try to break down this lengthy and complicated process into discrete stages? And might you consider different factors, in different ways, at each of those junctures? I think you might.

Moreover, Kagan argued, the EPA made a decision to regulate mercury emissions from power plants before it designed those emission standards, making it impossible to calculate potential costs associated with standards that hadn’t even been created yet.

“Simply put,” Kagan wrote, “calculating costs before starting to write a regulation would put the cart before the horse.”

In the majority opinion, Scalia compared the EPA to a potential car owner looking to purchase a Ferrari without thinking about the costs of the car. It was a metaphor that Kagan didn’t love:

The comparison is witty but wholly inapt. To begin with, emissions limits are not a luxury good: They are a safety measure, designed to curtail the significant health and environmental harms caused by power plants spewing hazardous pollutants. And more: EPA knows from past experience and expertise alike that it will have the opportunity to purchase that good in a cost effective way. A better analogy might be to a car owner who decides without first checking prices that it is “appropriate and necessary” to replace her worn-out brake-pads, aware from prior experience that she has ample time to comparison shop and bring that purchase within her budget.

When deciding to regulate mercury pollution from power plants, Kagan contined, the EPA did not ignore the question of cost. Instead, it chose to wait until it had a better idea of what the emission regulations would be to consider the cost that those regulations would incur.

“The majority arrives at a different conclusion only by disregarding most of EPA’s regulatory process,” Kagan wrote. “It insists that EPA must consider costs — when EPA did just that, over and over and over again.”

The majority’s decision, Kagan concluded, ignored the latitude given to the EPA by Congress about how to best account for costs and benefits when designing emissions regulations.

“And the result,” she wrote, “is a decision that deprives the American public of the pollution control measures that the responsible Agency, acting well within its delegated authority, found would save many, many lives.”

Fracking…truly an earth moving experience….

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

‘Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.’

To hunting, shooting and fishing, a rugged Oklahoman named Mark Crismon has added one more hobby: seismography. Festooned on the walls of his backyard shed are antlers and bushy tails that once belonged to deer he has killed over the years. But these days his mind is on earthquakes.

Mr Crismon’s wares are arranged around a laptop connected to a seismometer from a local university, which is buried 3ft under his garden. It carries a non-stop feed of wavy lines recording the amplitude of ground vibrations across the state. At least once an hour, a sudden burst of spikes signals a tremor that someone will have felt — each one representing an unexpected new threat to the US’s oil and gas revolution.

The energy market has been transformed by surging production of “tight” oil and gas, which horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) are freeing from shale and other rock formations. With US oil output close to 10m barrels a day — the all-time high it hit in 1970 — America has cut its dependence on Middle Eastern imports, created thousands of jobs and produced an oil glut that has helped to lower the global crude price.

But Mr Crismon — and scientists who have studied the issue — say it is not all good news. They blame the shale boom for triggering a spate of earthquakes that are shredding nerves and damaging homes. “It just tears everything. I got cracks everywhere,” says Mr Crismon, who compares the state to a war zone. “Instead of having bombs you got earthquakes.”

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Quakes were rare in Oklahoma until 2009. But last year the state had a record 584 with a magnitude of 3.0 or over — more than in the previous 30 years combined, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey. This has pushed the state past California to become the most rattled part of the continental US. No-one has been killed, but the largest recent quake, a magnitude 5.6 jolt in the tiny town of Prague in 2011, injured two people and destroyed 14 homes. 

The shale boom has been helped by a drill-first-ask-questions-later approach permitted by some US states. But the quakes could mark a turning point. Bob Jackman, a petroleum geologist and former oil and gas operator, says they are a “warning flag” that carelessness will catch up with oil companies. “It’s a caution to the fossil fuel industry that you must weigh other considerations.”

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The ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ Top 10! (part 4)

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Bonjour! Et enfin, we appear to have reached the final leg of our countdown! At number seven we have,

The heat is on. 

Natural gas is mostly methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas that traps 86 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. And because methane leaks during the fracking process, fracking may be worse than burning coal, mooting the claim that natural gas burns more cleanly than coal.

“When you frack, some of that gas leaks out into the atmosphere,” writes 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “If enough of it leaks out before you can get it to a power plant and burn it, then it’s no better, in climate terms, than burning coal. If enough of it leaks, America’s substitution of gas for coal is in fact not slowing global warming.”

A recent international satellite study on North American fracking production led by the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen in Germany found that “fugitive methane emissions” caused by the fracking process “may counter the benefit over coal with respect to climate change” and that “net climate benefit…is unlikely.”

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“Even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact—enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas,” writes Joe Romm, the founding editor of the blog Climate Progress. “The climate will likely be ruined already well past most of our lifespans by the time natural gas has a net climate benefit.”

8. Quid pro quo?

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Finally, one of the more insidious side effects of fracking is less about the amount of chemicals flowing into the ground and more about the amount of money flowing into politicians’ campaign coffers from the fracking industry.

According to a 2013 report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), contributions from fracking trade groups and companies operating fracking wells to congressional candidates representing states and districts where fracking occurs rose by more than 230 percent between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, from $2.1 million to $6.9 million. Remember this is in dollars & not pounds sterling….

That is nearly twice as much as the increase in contributions from the fracking industry to candidates from non-fracking districts during the same period, outpacing contributions from the entire oil and gas industry to all congressional candidates. Republican congressional candidates have received nearly 80 percent of fracking industry contributions.

“The fracking boom isn’t just good for the industry, but also for congressional candidates in fracking districts,” said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan.

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The candidate who has received the most in contributions from the fracking industry is Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton received more than $500,000 between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles—over $100,000 more than any other candidate in the nation. It should come as no surprise that Barton sponsored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from federal oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

On April 21, Colorado and Wyoming filed a lawsuit challenging the new federal fracking regulations issued last month by the Bureau of Land Management for onshore drilling on tribal and public lands, claiming that the rule, which regulates underground injections in the fracking process, “exceeds the agency’s statutory jurisdiction.”

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“The debate over hydraulic fracturing is complicated enough without the federal government encroaching on states’ rights,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, in a statement. “This lawsuit will demonstrate that BLM exceeds its powers when it invades the states’ regulatory authority in this area.”

Coffman, a Republican, is married to Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-8), also a Republican. Coffman and two other GOP representatives from the state, Scott Tipton (CO-3) and Doug Lamborn (CO-5), have sponsored a trio of bills—H.R. 4321, 4382 and 4383 (called the “3 Stooges” bills by environmentalists)—that would fast-track leasing and permitting for drilling and fracking on public lands. These three congressmen, each of whom have received more than $100,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry, sit on the Natural Resources Committee and naturally oppose federal regulations on fracking. 

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The ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ Top 10! (part 3)

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Welcome back to the ranks of the S.C.R.E.W.E.D! Well, we’re galloping along at the pace of a toxic waste build-up! At number five we have,

5. Bad for babies. 

The waste fluid left over from the fracking process is left in open-air pits to evaporate, which releases dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere, creating contaminated air, acid rain and ground-level ozone.

Exposure to diesel particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide and volatile hydrocarbons can lead to a host of health problems, including asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, anemia, heart attacks and cancer.

It can also have a damaging effect on immune and reproductive systems, as well as fetal and child development. A 2014 study conducted by the Colorado Department of Environmental and Occupational Health found that mothers who live near fracking sites are 30 percent more likely to have babies with congenital heart defects.

Research from Cornell University indicates an increased prevalence of low birth weight and reduced APGAR scores in infants born to mothers living near fracking sites in Pennsylvania. And in Wyoming’s Sublette County, the fracking boom has been linked to dangerous spikes in ozone concentrations. A study led by the state’s Department of Health found that these ozone spikes are associated with increased outpatient clinic visits for respiratory problems.

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6. Killer Gas

A recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that homes located in suburban and rural areas near fracking sites have an overall radon concentration 39 percent higher than those located in non-fracking urban areas. The study included almost 2 million radon readings taken between 1987 and 2013 done in over 860,000 buildings from every county, mostly homes.

A naturally occurring radioactive gas formed by the decay of uranium in rock, soil and water, radon—odorless, tasteless and invisible—moves through the ground and into the air, while some remains dissolved in groundwater where it can appear in water wells. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer worldwide, after smoking. The EPA estimates approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. are radon-related.

“Between 2005-2013, 7,469 unconventional wells were drilled in Pennsylvania. Basement radon concentrations fluctuated between 1987-2003, but began an upward trend from 2004-2012 in all county categories,” the researchers wrote.

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The ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ Top 10! (part 2)

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Welcome back to the ranks of S.C.R.E.W.E.D! We’re still ploughing our way through the ‘fracked by Cuadrilla & Exxon’ top ten and at number 3 we have,

Shifting sands. 

In addition to all the water and toxic chemicals, fracking requires the use of fine sand, or frac sand, which has driven a silica sand mining boom in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which together have 164 active frac sand facilities with 20 more proposed. Both states are where most of the stuff is produced and where regulations are lax for air and water pollution monitoring. Northeastern Iowa has also become a primary source.

“Silica can impede breathing and cause respiratory irritation, cough, airway obstruction and poor lung function,” according to Environmental Working Group. “Chronic or long-term exposure can lead to lung inflammation, bronchitis and emphysema and produce a severe lung disease known as silicosis, a form of pulmonary fibrosis. Silica-related lung disease is incurable and can be fatal, killing hundreds of workers in the U.S. each year.”

“I could feel dust clinging to my face and gritty particles on my teeth,” said Victoria Trinko, a resident of Bloomer, Wisconsin. Within nine months of the construction of frac sand mine, about a half-mile from her home, she developed a sore throat and raspy voice and was eventually diagnosed with environment-caused asthma. She hasn’t opened her windows since 2012.

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Across the 33-county frac sand mining area that spans Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, nearly 60,000 people live less than half a mile from existing or proposed mines. And new danger zones will likely pop up around the nation: Due to the fracking boom, environmentalists and public health advocates warn that frac sand mines could spread to several states with untapped silica deposits, including Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

Bryan Shinn, the chief executive of sand mining company U.S. Silica Holdings said in September that due to the fracking boom, they “see a clear pathway to the volume of sand demand that’s out there doubling or tripling in the next four to five years.”

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4. Shake, Rattle Snake & Roll. 

On April 20, the U.S. Geological Survey released a long-awaited report that confirmed what many scientists have long speculated: the fracking process causes earthquakes. Specifically, over the last seven years, geologically stable regions of the U.S., including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, have experienced movements in faults that have not moved in millions of years. Plus, it’s difficult or impossible to predict where future fracking-caused earthquakes will occur.

“They’re ancient faults,” said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth. “We don’t always know where they are.”

Ellsworth led the USGS team that analyzed changes in earthquake occurrence rates in the central and eastern United States since 1970. They found that between 1973–2008, there was an average of 21 earthquakes of at least magnitude three. From 2009-2013, the region experienced 99 M3+ earthquakes per year. And the rate is still rising. In Oklahoma, there were 585 earthquakes in 2014—more than in the last 35 years combined.

“The increase in seismicity has been found to coincide with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in several locations, including Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio,” the report states. “Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed and approved for this purpose.”

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

‘Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.’

For many years, Oklahoma’s government has been reluctant to concede the connection between fracking and earthquakes. In October of last year, during a gubernatorial election debate with state Rep. Joe Dorman, a Democrat, Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, declined to say whether or not she believed earthquakes were caused by fracking. Fallin was re-elected.

But the government has finally come around. The day after the USGS report was released, on April 21, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a state agency, released a statement saying that is it “very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those is central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells.”

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The same day, the state’s energy and environment department launched a website that explains the finding along with an earthquake map and what the government is doing about it all. According to the site, “Oklahoma state agencies are not waiting to take action.” 

Now there is a split between the state’s governmental branches: Two days after the executive branch admitted that fracking causes earthquakes, the state’s lawmakers, evidently unmoved by the trembling ground, passed two bills, backed by the oil and gas industry, that limit the ability of local communities to decide if they want fracking in their backyards.

The ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ Top 10! (part 1)

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First, let’s take a look at some of the fracking numbers:

  • 40,000: gallons of chemicals used for each fracturing site
  • 8 million: number of gallons of water used per fracking
  • 600: number of chemicals used in the fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins such as lead, benzene, uranium, radium, methanol, mercury, hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde
  • 10,000: number of feet into the ground that the fracking fluid is injected through a drilled pipeline
  • 1.1 million: number of active gas wells in the United States
  • 72 trillion: gallons of water needed to run current gas wells
  • 360 billion: gallons of chemicals needed to run current gas wells
  • 300,000: number of barrel of natural gas produced a day from fracking

And here are eight of the worst side effects of fracking you don’t hear about from those slick TV commercials paid for by the industry.

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1. Burning the furniture to heat the house. 

During the fracking process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the well and contaminate nearby groundwater. The contaminated water is used for drinking water in local communities. There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking areas as well as cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.

In 2011, the New York Times reported that it obtained thousands of internal documents from the EPA, state regulators and fracking companies, which reveal that “the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water,contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.”

A single well can produce more than a million gallons of wastewater, which contains radioactive elements like radium and carcinogenic hydrocarbons like benzene. In addition, methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking-water wells near fracking sites than in normal wells. Only 30-50 percent of the fracturing fluid is recovered; the rest is left in the ground and is not biodegradable.

“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” said John H. Quigley, former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In shifting away from coal and toward natural gas, we’re trying for cleaner air, but we’re producing massive amounts of toxic wastewater with salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and it’s not clear we have a plan for properly handling this waste.”

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2. Squeezed out. 

More than 90 percent of the water used in fracking well never returns to the surface. Since that water is permanently removed from the natural water cycle, this is bad news for drought-afflicted or water-stressed states, such as Arkansas, California, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas and Wyoming.

“We don’t want to look up 20 years from now and say, Oops, we used up all our water,” said Jason Banes of the Boulder, Colorado-based Western Resource Advocates.

The redirection of water supplies to the fracking industry not only causes water price spikes, but also reduces water availability for crop irrigation. 

“There is a new player for water, which is oil and gas,” said Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “And certainly they are in a position to pay a whole lot more than we are.”

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Fracking Linked to Increased Infant Mortality In Pennsylvania

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A new study has linked fracking to a higher incidence in infant mortality, perinatal mortality, low-weight births, premature births and cancer in infants and children.

Funded by the Pittsburgh Foundation and written by Joe Mangano, co-founder and president of the Radiation and Public Health Project, a nonprofit educational and scientific organization that studies the relationship between low-level, nuclear radiation and public health, the study used data from state agencies to examine eight heavily fracked counties in Pennsylvania — four in the northeast and four in the southwest region of the state, counties that account for the majority of the state’s natural gas drill wells and gas production. In all categories but child cancer, increases were greater in the northeast counties than they were in the four southwest counties.

“The information presented in this report supports the hypothesis of a link between exposure to toxic chemicals released in fracking and increased risk of disease and death,” writes Mangano, who also manages the citizen-based radiation monitoring programs near the nuclear plants at Indian Point, New York, and Oyster Creek, New Jersey. “While it is virtually impossible to estimate a ‘dose’ to a community from chemicals generated by fracking, it is clear that residents of the eight most-fracked counties received far greater exposures than those in the rest of Pennsylvania.”

'Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.'

‘Fracking zone. Be prepared for anything.’

Analyzing publicly available data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mangano found that, since the early 2000s and compared to the rest of the state, the heavily-fracked counties have seen a rise in infant mortality (13.9 percent), perinatal mortality (23.6 percent), low-weight births (3.4 percent), premature births/gestation less than 32 weeks (12.4 percent) and cancer incidence in age 0-4 (35.1 percent).

Mangano asserts that the advent of large-scale fracking “has added considerable amounts of toxic chemicals into the environment, including various greenhouse gases and radiation. While potential health consequences of fracking has been become a national issue, very little research on health trends among affected populations has been conducted.”

Over the past decade, Pennsylvania and other parts of the U.S. have seen a rapid rise in fracking operations. Between January 1, 2005, and March 2, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued 10,232 drilling permits, and denied only 36 requests.

May 22, 2013

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With 66 operators currently drilling 7,788 active wells, fracking has dramatically changed the landscape of northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania. So too has the scientific evidence of fracking’s negative impact on public health. The fracking process produces diesel particulate matter, the exposure of which may lead to asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, anemia, congenital hearth defects, heart attacks and cancer.

Fracking has also been linked to drinking water pollution and the release of radon gas, a known carcinogenic. Some 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins such as lead, benzene, uranium, radium, methanol, mercury, hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde.

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“I am convinced that fracking as it is done today should be banned,” said Dr. David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences within the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, in an email. “But I am not in theory opposed to fracking — only when it is done is a fashion that poses a significant threat to human health.”

Epidemiological studies on the effect of fracking on infants and children can be more useful than similar studies on adults. “Any environmentally-caused health problems in the very young are the result of a recent insult, while health problems in adults can be a result of a much earlier exposure with a long lag period before the disease is diagnosed,” Mangano notes. “The very young are most susceptible to the harmful effects of environmental radiation, so any unusual patterns in morbidity or mortality would show up quickest in these groups.”

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“The information is only a start in refining the discussion about fracking’s impact on humans,” notes Mangano. “Other studies must be conducted, on this and other geographic areas, disease categories, and age groups. As these develop, it is crucial that information such as this is disseminated to citizens and public leaders, leading to more informed discussion that will make future public policies that best protect the public’s health.”

Part of that discussion must be how fracking is done. Clearly, there are problems with the methods used in Pennsylvania: Between January 2009 and March 2015, fracking operators in the state have been issued more than 4,000 violations with fines totaling $6.1 million.

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Carpenter, who co-authored a 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health that analyzed the air concentrations of volatile organic compounds in five states, including Pennsylvania, near unconventional oil and gas sites, believes that fracking methods can change to reduce the potential impact of fracking on public health. “I’m sure the industry could clean up its act if it were required to do so,” he said.

Mangano said that his study’s results “should be disseminated to shareholders, including citizens, citizen groups, public officials, health officials, media, and gas companies. The discussion of fracking’s effects need to continue and be evidence-based as much as possible, so that public policies can best protect the public’s health.”

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“The abstract is alarming,” said Rebecca Roter, founder and chairperson of Breathe Easy Susquehanna County (BESC), a nonpartisan community advocacy group based in Montrose, Pennsylvania, seeking to reduce air pollution from natural gas drilling. Roter, who wrote a letter in support of Mangano’s grant application for the study, advocates working with the oil and gas industry to achieve a common good: clean air. “It doesn’t matter what side of the issue of drilling you are on: you are breathing, too. We can all agree on maintaining air quality.”

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Exxon’s Fracking CEO Came Out Against Fracking Project ‘Not In My Backyard!’

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As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.

The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson joined a lawsuit in 2014 that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.

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The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.

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When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”

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In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.

Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A spokesperson told the WSJ it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

UPDATE

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has formally extended a welcome to Tillerson to the fracking critic club, with this statement Friday:

I would like to officially welcome Rex to the ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ (SCREWED). This select group of everyday citizens has been fighting for years to protect their property values, the health of their local communities, and the environment. We are thrilled to have the CEO of a major international oil and gas corporation join our quickly multiplying ranks.

Polar Bear by Carla Lombardo Ehrlich

Cuadrilla & Centrica Lobbyists Frack Up Fake Support!

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FRACKING lobbyists denied yesterday that they had created a pro-shale gas campaign by roping in college students as supporters of the climate-destroying drilling method.

Westbourne Communications, which has shale gas companies Centrica and Caudrilla as clients, said it did not “astroturf” a fake grassroots movement in favour of fracking — a practice halted in Britain since 2011.

In press releases swallowed up by mainstream media, eight students were shown standing on the steps of Lancashire Country Council with a “Students for Shale” banner on Monday, before councillors make a landmark decision this week on whether to allow fracking in the area.

Handout photo issued by North West Energy of students on the steps of County Hall in Preston to launch Students for Shale, as they are calling on Lancashire County Council to approve Cuadrilla's applications for further exploratory drilling because of the positive impact it will have on local young people. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 22, 2015. See PA story ENERGY Fracking. Photo credit should read: Martyn Hicks/North West Energy/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Handout photo issued by North West Energy of students on the steps of County Hall in Preston to launch Students for Shale, as they are calling on Lancashire County Council to approve Cuadrilla’s applications for further exploratory drilling because of the positive impact it will have on local young people. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 22, 2015. See PA story ENERGY Fracking. Photo credit should read: Martyn Hicks/North West Energy/PA Wire
NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will join up to 2,000 people at a protest outside the County Hall in Preston today urging councillors to “consider the strength of opposition to fracking,” including concerns over damage to homes, noise, pollution and traffic.

But the socialist newspaper, the Morning Star, revealed that the purportedly pro-shale students have vested interests in fracking — using high-pressure chemicals to smash shale rock and release gas — as they are studying geology and hope to get jobs in the industry.

One of the students attends Blackpool and Fylde College, which was designated as the national training centre for the onshore gas sector last year.

As well as bankrolling the North West Energy Task Force campaign led by Westbourne Communications, Centrica and Caudrilla have also “supported” the college to become Britain’s main onshore energy training site.

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Maurice Cousins, account director at Westbourne Communications, denied that he had deliberately used Lancashire geology students to coerce positive public opinion of fracking.

He said: “We are in no way misrepresenting how students regard fracking. I do not understand what the issue is. We are transparent and not misleading. The students are within their rights to their opinions.”

After the Star contacted Blackpool and Fylde College, a flustered Mr Cousins called to demand that we only get information from him.

The former adviser to MP Douglas Carswell accused the Star of “harassing” students — despite our reporter going through the correct procedure of speaking to the college data protection officer to get in touch with one student — and said that they were “students, not activists.”

Mr Cousins failed to see the irony of his comment after using these non-activists in his so-called grassroots campaign.
But it is not the first time that Westbourne Communications has been accused of astroturfing.

In a report for Spinwatch, journalist Anna Minton reported that the firm had spun a campaign for high-speed rail to intimdate local opposition — or “shit them up,” in the words of Westbourne director James Bethell.

Ms Minton wrote: “It has been set up to give the impression that it is a grassroots campaign of concerned employers, local businesses and local residents.

“They didn’t want the HS2 ‘narrative’ to be about shaving minutes off journey times to Birmingham and in the process cutting through swathes of countryside.

“The debate they sought to create was about pitting wealthy people in the Chilterns worried about their hunting rights against working-class people in the north.

“The strategy was ‘posh people standing in the way of working-class people getting jobs’ the lobbyist said.”