National Casualty, an insurance company that operates under the umbrella of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., has officially become the first major insurer to announce that it won't cover damages related to fracking operations.
According to a statement released by the company, "From an underwriting standpoint, we do not have a comfort level with the unique risks associated with the fracking process to provide coverage at a reasonable price."
This is a major step forward for the countless Americans who are opposed to the fracking process, and to those whose health, property and livelihoods have been directly affected by contaminated drinking water and polluted air.
This could also be a major step forward in the exhausting process of getting political leaders to recognize its dangers and implement legislation to protect the public. The timing could serve New Yorkers well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to make a decision soon that will determine whether or not fracking operations will be allowed to move forward in select counties.
Nationwide, an Ohio-based company, has also hopefully sent a clear message to Ohio legislators—most importantly Gov. John Kasich—who continue to accommodate the oil and gas industry at the expense of the public.
“When a company with the scope of Nationwide Insurance determines that property with fracking is too risky and too dangerous to insure, political leaders considering the practice would be wise to take heed," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "What countless families, farmers and small business owners across the nation have already figured out—that fracking just can’t be done safely—national corporations with a stake in our land are now realizing as well. Nationwide isn’t willing to risk its bottom line over fracking, and our elected leaders shouldn’t be willing to risk the health and safety of those they serve.”
According to the Associated Press, the Nationwide policy came to light when an internal memo detailing underwriting guidelines was posted on websites of upstate New York anti-fracking groups and landowner coalitions seeking gas leases. Nancy Smeltzer, a spokeswoman for Nationwide, confirmed that the memo was genuine but said it wasn’t intended for public dissemination.
The memo states: "After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
It also states that “prohibited risks” apply to landowners who lease land for shale gas drilling and contractors involved in fracking operations, including those who haul water to and from drill sites; pipe and lumber haulers; and operators of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles used in drill site preparation, according to the Associated Press.
In response to the leaked document, Nationwide issued this response:
Nationwide has not changed our policies or guidelines. Fracking related losses have never been a covered loss under a personal or commercial lines policy.
Nationwide's personal and commercial lines insurance policies were not designed to provide coverage for any fracking-related risks. However, Nationwide will investigate all claims submitted by our customers that they believe are the result of damage from fracking. Every Nationwide claim is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Insurance works when a carrier can accurately price the coverage to match the risks. When information and claims experience are not available to fully understand the scope of a given risk, carriers aren’t able to price protection that would be fair to both the customer and the company. From an underwriting standpoint, we do not have a comfort level with the unique risks associated with the fracking process to provide coverage at a reasonable price.
Insurance is a contract and it is designed to cover certain risks. Risks like flooding and mining or drilling are not part of our contracts, and the customer should seek out an insurer that handles these customized types of insurance.
Joe Case, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
If Nationwide doesn't feel comfortable with the risks of fracking operations, political leaders should take note: It's not good business, it's not in the interest of public health and it's not wanted.
You can make your voice heard on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this July 28 at the nation's largest-ever anti-fracking rally, labeled "Stop the Frack Attack."
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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