This was written by Moms Clean Air Force Pennsylvania Field Organizer, Crystal Yost:
My family lives in Pennsylvania, where over 10,000 unconventional gas wells have been permitted, including 7 wells within a mile of our home, the nearest just 1,300 ft away. Last August our township officials changed our zoning regulations to allow fracking wells in 92% of our township, including 6 about a half mile from my children’s school. In Southwestern Pennsylvania alone, there are over 350 active wells within a mile of public schools, some as close as 500 ft from the playground. A Penn State University agent made the projection that up to 196,000 new unconventional wells could ultimately be drilled in the state of PA.
Across America, over 15 million families live in the shadow of the oil and gas industry and that number is growing.
Children are at a higher health risk from exposure at every stage of development than adults. A June Pitt study that examined over 15,000 live births in several Pittsburgh area counties, including Butler County, where I live, found that mothers who lived closer to gas wells had lower birth weight babies than the mothers who live farther away. The researchers note the rapid growth in the natural gas industry and the lack of health studies.
Another June study by the Radiation and Public Health Project of 8 heavily fracked Pennsylvania counties found disturbing health effects from living near fracking, especially for children under five years old. The researchers found that the heavily-fracked counties experience:
- 13.9% greater infant mortality
- 23.6% greater perinatal mortality
- 3.4% more low-weight births
- 12.4% more premature births
- 35.1% more cancer in children ages zero to four than the rest of Pennsylvania.
Those who work, go to school, and play within a few hundred feet of the natural gas development, have discovered that along with methane, a developed gas well releases toxic volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons and hazardous air pollutants into the air we breathe. Multiple family members have suddenly developed asthma and/or other illnesses after oil and gas moved in.
Last year, the Pennsylvania Auditor General issued a report that said the PA Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to keep up with the workload placed on it by this influx of gas wells, and has failed to respond adequately to many public complaints about water and air contamination resulting from gas development. Current PA state regulations require a 500 foot setback from an occupied structure, failing to offer any special protection or even bother to distinguish if that structure is a hospital, a school, a daycare or a nursing home. Our states are failing to adequately regulate this industry.
To protect public health, we need strong federal regulations that curb all toxic emissions from the oil and gas industry. The Obama Administration’s Methane Rule is a baby step in the right direction in protecting us from impacts of climate change, and safeguarding the health of American families living on the front lines of fracking.