Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Gas drilling and public health

Gas drilling has experienced a tremendous surge in recent years. It has generated thousands of new jobs in an economy where unemployment is rampant. But is it safe? Many argue that it is, while others contend it is harmful to the public, particularly those living close to the drilling areas.

Billions of dollars in revenue are at stake. However, thousands of lives, not only those of employees of the drilling companies, but also those of people who live close to the drilling areas, could possibly be harmed if the drilling continues without better regulation.

According to federal and state regulators, hydraulic fracturing can be safe as long as companies do it correctly. In fact, thousands of these gas wells have already been drilled and there haven't been any serious pollution complaints. Yet, would there be more complaints if regulations were tougher? That is what environmental groups are asking, claiming that hydraulic fracturing does indeed pollute both the air and groundwater and lead to drilling injuries.

Over the next few decades, at least one group, Geisinger Health Systems, will perform a study to determine the health impact of gas drilling. It will compare the health of patients living in gas drilling areas to those living where drilling does not occur. This study is especially important in an era when the government has not been able to fund this type of medical research. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Health currently has no funding to determine the impact of gas drilling on residents' health.

Aside from health issues, there are other - perhaps more obvious - dangers with gas drilling. For example, workers are frequently injured on the job and there is the possibility of well blowouts, gas explosions and oil truck accidents.

In sum: As gas drilling has continued to expand, public health and worker safety must be a priority.

Source: Huffington Post, "Geisinger Health Systems: What Are the Gas Drilling Health Facts?" Kevin Begos, May 20, 2012.

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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