Health Experts Call for Pause in Fracking; Say Industry Should Fund Research

by Dee Fulton on January 10, 2012

Fast on the heels of a call from a CDC official for more study on the health impacts of fracking, the Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) called for the expansion of fracking to be halted until more research is performed.  The remarks were made at a conference sponsored by PSE and the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in Arlington, Va on Monday.  Adam Law, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College and board member of PSE stated in opening remarks:

“When it comes to hydro fracking, our guiding principle for public policy should be the same as the one used by physicians: ‘First, do no harm.’ There is a need for scientific and epidemiologic information on the health impacts of fracking. Frankly, no one should be unleashing even more fracking before we have the scientific facts….The reality is that industry has not done nearly enough to finance the needed research effort.”

The PSE press release went on to quote Jerome Paulson, MD, George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, and the director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment.

“We are here today to explore what research needs to be done and what protocols and processes should be implemented … I recommend that the drilling and energy companies fund an independent foundation that would support research related to human and ecosystem health…”

The Raw Story reported that Chris Tucker, spokesman for the industry-backed group Energy In Depth, said the gathering was not a conference of concerned scientists, “it’s a conference of paid activists.” “What these guys are essentially arguing is that the mere act of turning a drill bit horizontally… represents a greater risk to human health than drilling straight down into the formation, which we’ve been doing safely for more than 150 years.”

COMMENT:  I will be mightily surprised if Chesapeake or any other gas producer voluntarily begins making grants for health research.  I think it was about a year ago that I suggested to Scott Rotruck that Chesapeake consider funding an air quality study.  I didn’t hear anything back from Scott on that amusing idea.

It seems only just that gas producers should fund the needed studies, but it is more likely that the public will subsidize the research. Funding for that public effort should come from gas well fees and severance taxes.  Too many people have been made ill already; this needs to be kicked into high gear.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Blakeslee January 10, 2012 at 11:00 am

The frenzied call for shutting down our modern gas extraction industry pending “More study” ignores the fact that thousands of modern wells now in production represent a far greater and more reliable empirical demonstration of the hazards involved than any “study” ever could.

The empirical evidence is that hazards are ALREADY DEMONSTRATED to be manageable.

“Long term effects” are unknown, say those who fear catastrophe. Well, think about how “studies” at the turn of the last century might have predicted the hazzards in the nascent automobile industry.

Pending actual experience, there was no way to know.


D. Nichols January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

The calls for a moratorium on deep drilling, horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracking have come from learned experts on human health effects. These have been professors and researchers with no particular bias toward the gas industry. Compare this with all the advertising paid by the industry to paint a picture of “no problems here.”. LET’S TRY TO BE RATIONAL ABOUT THIS!


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