Those Impacted by Fracking: “The List of the Harmed”

by S. Tom Bond on April 19, 2013

List of the Harmed

# 1208 Entries And Counting:

By Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

The internet site Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air is one of the many great sites produced by people living in the Pennsylvania Marcellus area. The area is both heavily populated and heavily drilled which results in so many sites and such good quality. The area has plenty of people articulate enough, with the skills necessary to make themselves heard, and the initiative to actually work on the problems they and their neighbors face. Their “tell it like it is” attitude is something to be proud of.

Early on, PACWA began a “List of the Harmed,” a list of those affected by pollution from shale drilling. It includes the name of the harmed individual, the location, gas facility causing the harm, how they were exposed, and the symptoms, with the source of the information. For example, numbers 1197 and 1198 are Bruce Ford and Rod Law, in McKenzie County, ND. They were seriously burned when vapors from a Statoil well caught fire.

Another is 828, Jodi Borello of Washington County, Pennsylvania. She had six gas wells drilled within 500 yards of her house, with the result of chemical burns to her eyes and bad rashes , and also had to put up with noise pollution and excessive traffic.

The list is compiled by Jenny Lisak, Co-director of PACWA. It has now arrived at 1208 entries, some of them double or groups of people. There are many other references at the end of the list, guidance for more research.

The significance of the list is that everyone connected with fracking knows some several people with complaints. If you have listened to these people it is heart-breaking. Children, pets and domestic animals are affected and sometimes die. There are many published accounts dispersed through articles in newspapers in shale drilling areas and the accounts on the internet. The List is an attempt to gather a large number of these together in one place. Several hundred is hard to shrug off. One thousand plus is impossible to ignore.

As a result of the large number, the List is getting a lot of much- deserved attention. There is a video on YouTube which shows how many are affected graphically. That YouTube page has responses, some showing empathy, some planted by industry sycophants, and some by people who are simply confused. The video leads in to several others having to do with fracking – there are many on YouTube.

Laurel Pelter has also written an excellent article about the List. She points out that no official source tabulates the very considerable damage being done by fracking. The US Energy Information Administration tracks a tremendous range of statistics about energy, but nothing about how it affects people! She quotes Jenny Lisak, the list coordinator, who said “I wonder how long the list will have to get before something changes.”

Laurel also points out a few other related statistics we do know, collected by the EIA:

(1) 40,000+ Number of shale gas wells drilled
(2) 15 states generating shale gas
(3) 11.3 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas produced in 2011
(4) 40 Percent of U.S. gas production comes from shale
(5) Shale plays are found in 32 states.

Laurel says, ” It is time we asked our government to publish official statistics of how many citizens are being negatively impacted by fracking so that the real costs are out in the open.” We agree.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vulcan Alex April 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Every form of economic activity has some negative effect. Now noise and traffic are at the low end of the scale and perhaps just need to be accepted. Industrial accidents also at some level need to be accepted, but safety should come first. Now surface pollution can and should be controlled or mitigated where control fails. Considering the large positive economic effect of fracking we will need to accept some negatives. After all we accept a large number of deaths and injuries as a price to pay for having cars and the freedom and benefits that they produce. Same with fracking.


Laurel Peltier April 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hi Alex: I am so glad you left a comment, because you touched on a topic I’ve been thinking about in regards to fracking and I plan to write about it soon. Thought about this all weekend, this is top-of-mind below…

If I hadn’t sold-back my econ textbooks (BS in Econ from UCLA), I’d be dusting them off and re-reading negative external costs; that is what I believe you’re driving at. I think negative external costs are where one party benefits from an economic activity (hosting a wild nightclub party for profit) and another party does not benefit from the activity (sleep-less neighbors cleaning up beer bottles day after.) This concept applies to fracking (not to driving in my view, later on that) because a natural gas driller can suck up the gas on a person’s property, negatively impact the landowner who often receives no benefit (tho’ some do collect royalties, so that’s arguable).

Negative external costs are often not solved by free markets because the neg cost isn’t priced in the equation. Other collective methods (regulation, govt influence, laws, peer pressure) need to be used to level the playing field-if that’s what the “collective reasoning” requires.

Another challenge is that when neg, external costs aren’t priced, free markets tend to consume too much of that product. The third challenge, is for the parties who do not control the decisions and get a neg costs lopped on them, they are unfairly bearing the burden for another’s behavior. In the US, I argue, we try as a collective society to mitigate negative costs; forcing everyone to buy uninsured coverage, zoning industrial sites away from residential and creating regulations on pollution and behaviors.

That’s part of the debate in my view is how and if fracking can be performed and fairly mitigate the neg costs. As I view the current system, the lack of disclosure rules, wastewater issues and lack of restitution for people being negatively harmed, “it” doesn’t try at all to mitigate these costs.

Also, I think, driving a car is a choice by both parties and both parties receive the benefits of tootling around and the costs are a chosen risk.

Thank you again for your comment, I know many people feel as you do, I’ve heard it at many discussions I’ve had. It’s all great, until it’s you.


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