Lee calls on health department to act on Braddock fracking proposal

Asks for review of plan to frack in neighborhoods plagued with decades of environmental abuse and health disparities

BRADDOCK, Aug. 16 – Amid rising environmental concerns and against the backdrop of decades of regulatory violations, state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, today sent a letter to the Allegheny County Health Department, urging it to review the current proposal by Merrion Oil and Gas to build a fracking well site in Braddock.

In the letter, Lee pointed to the area’s history of environmental abuse at the hands of industry, the possible health risks involved in fracking in an urban environment, Merrion’s lack of experience with fracking and its failure to submit proper permits to regulatory agencies, and expressed her belief, shared by many in the community, that the proposal requires additional reviews and permitting that fall within the county health department’s jurisdiction.

“The fracking well proposed at the Edgar Thomson Steel Works would endanger the public health and public safety of much of my district. Allegheny County Health Department must protect the residents of the Mon Valley from this dangerous proposal,” Lee wrote. “These neighborhoods are already plagued by decades of violative industry practices that have caused some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the country, according to numerous medical reports. Fracking would present an additional environmental stressor for these communities to deal with.”

Lee’s request comes just days after Penn Environment released the latest report on pollution in Allegheny County. In the report, Penn Environment said the American Lung Association ranks the air in the Pittsburgh metro area the seventh worst in the nation, and that particulate pollution in the Mon Valley specifically is among the worst in the country.

The report also states that Allegheny County is in the top 1% of counties nationwide for cancer risk from toxic air pollutants released by stationary point sources of emissions, such as industrial facilities, and that the Pittsburgh metro area ranks fifth in the nation for excess mortality from exposure to ozone and particulate matter, with an estimated 232 premature deaths annually.

“We believe that a responsible health department would assert its responsibility in regulating air quality in Allegheny County by classifying this proposed fracking well as a modification of U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson facility,” Lee wrote. “Furthermore, we believe that a responsible health department would deny such a modification.”

In addition to her letter requesting action by the Allegheny County Health Department, Lee is also hosting a public forum on local and state environmental issues at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Forest Hills Borough Building.