PA public health policy must also include protection from fracking

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tom Wolf has demonstrated his willingness to go to great lengths to protect the health and safety of the public. It is time to bring the same political will to the issue of fracking.

In its two-year investigation of the unconventional oil and gas industry, Pennsylvania’s 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury “uncovered systematic failure by government agencies in overseeing the fracking industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of industry operations.” (Source: Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro)

The report outlined eight recommendations to protect Pennsylvanians from the risks of fracking and address the lack of oversight of the unconventional gas industry. In his public statement on June 25, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro painted a vivid picture, describing parents’ testimony that their children “would repeatedly wake up at night with severe nosebleeds caused by increased levels of gas in the air around the fracking sites.”

While we are encouraged by the attorney general’s strong language regarding the health effects on children and others who live near fracking infrastructure, the eight recommendations miss an obvious first step: Stop the bleeding.

The grand jury report provides irrefutable information and facts – 243 pages’ worth – demonstrating that people are being harmed by the practice of fracking, and that it is inherently dangerous to our communities not just in the event of an explosion, but in the daily, ongoing process of extracting gas from the earth and transporting it, sometimes just feet from where families live, play and sleep.

Given the availability of these facts, given children waking up with nosebleeds, and given that tap water smells like sulfur, tastes like formaldehyde, burns the skin and leaves black sludge in toilets, it is only reasonable that we immediately halt fracking operations.

As clear as it was to enact appropriate measures to protect Pennsylvania from the ills of a coronavirus, Gov. Wolf and Attorney General Shapiro must call for a moratorium on fracking.

Only a moratorium can stop the bleeding and allow the experts to assess whether fracking can safely continue and if so, lead to the overhauls and oversight needed to protect our health.

Danielle Friel Otten,
State Representative, 155th Legislative District

Laura Obenski,
Uwchlan Township resident