As Legislative Session Begins, Alarm Sounded on Fracking

January 10, 2014 –

Just as state legislators are heading back to the statehouse in Denver, new reports and studies have been released that further sound the alarm about the oil and gas industry.

One study, recently presented to the American Economic Association, found that fracking is bad for babies. Researchers “looked at Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 to assess the health of infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of natural-gas fracking sites.”

What they found was deeply troubling. Being born near fracked gas wells “increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half” and “the chances of a low Apgar score, a summary measure of the health of newborn children, roughly doubled.”

Another recent report, completed by the Associated Press, found that four states have confirmed water pollution from the oil and gas industry, confirming more than 100 cases over the past five years.

“The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances.”

Other findings from the AP investigation include:

  • 106 confirmed cases of water contamination in Pennsylvania since 2005.
  • 54 complaints and two confirmed cases of contamination in Ohio in 2011.
  • 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells in West Virginia over the past four years.

What is perhaps more troubling than the number of confirmed cases is that state regulators have been less than forthcoming about reports of contamination they receive from residents. In particular, according to one researcher, “many people in the public feel like [the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] is stonewalling some of these investigations.” And while state legislators get back to work in Denver this week, the oil and gas industry continues to have “a pretty good chokehold on the legislature,” and Gov. Hickenlooper continues to neglect the “legitimate concerns” of local residents.  In the meantime, studies will continue to surface showing increased air pollutionwater contamination, and public health hazards from the oil and gas industry.


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