Unprecedented Investigation Finds PA Prioritizes Fracking at Expense of Health, Environment & Law
Pennsylvania has been a hot spot for fracking—and many consequences of this from of gas drilling in the state have come to light, from social to health to environmental costs, as well as controversies, including contaminated drinking water in the town of Dimock, gag orders on doctors and victims, and the state health department's enforced silence on the practice.
While that sounds ominous enough, a new report released by Earthworks, after a year in the making, proves that the rush to drill undermines the protection of Pennsylvanians and the enforcement of regulations. Blackout in the Gas Patch: How Pennsylvania Residents are Left in the Dark on Health and Enforcement for the first time definitively connects health and environmental impacts of fracking with a lack of state oversight on a site-by-site basis.
“Legitimate, well-funded oversight should be a prerequisite for deciding whether to permit fracking, not an afterthought," said Nadia Steinzor, the report's lead author. “Governor Corbett and [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] DEP Secretary Abruzzo often say that the state has an exemplary regulatory program—but refuse to acknowledge that it's not being implemented properly and that air, water and health are being harmed as a result. DEP's limited resources make it impossible to keep up with required paperwork, let alone enforce the law and hold operators accountable."
Blackout in the Gas Patch looks at the permitting, operational and oversight records of 135 wells and facilities in seven counties and details 25 key findings of associated threats to residents' health and the environment. It also includes seven case studies using detailed timelines and maps, including the experiences of the Judy family from Carmichaels in Greene County.
Pam Judy said of her family's experience with fracking: “The Governor and DEP claim that gas and oil operations are safe and that they have everything under control. I live with it every day, and know that's not true—and this report confirms it."
Based primarily on data and documents from the DEP, Blackout in the Gas Patch has found that Pennsylvania prioritizes development over enforcement; neglects oversight; fails to consider known threats; undermines regulations; and prevents the public from getting information.
The report concludes that the oversight of Pennsylvania's oil and gas industry is occurring with three inherent contradictions at play, which are as follows:
1. DEP is charged with protecting the environment and the public, but is under strong political pressure to advance an industry that harms water, air and health.
2. Steep budget cuts to DEP during a shale gas boom means the agency has to do more with less—which in effect has meant insufficient oversight and enforcement.
3. As the number of people impacted by and concerned about the impacts of gas development grows, public access to information on the activities of both operators and DEP remains limited, inconsistent and restricted.
While the report, which offers many recommendations for the state, is a firm indictment of the current situation in Pennsylvania, as Bruce Baizel, director of Earthworks' Oil and Gas Accountability Project, points out: “There's a national crisis in fracking oversight. This report focuses on Pennsylvania, but it easily could have been written about Ohio, or the federal Bureau of Land Management, or Denton, Texas. Blackout illustrates why many residents across the United States have given up on the idea that regulators can manage the oil and gas boom, and are working so hard to stop fracking."
You Might Also Like
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.