Most of the body of law and regulation that governs fracking (drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas) was established years ago. But the science that accurately assesses health and environmental risks lags behind. A recent survey of scientific publications says:
While research continues to lag behind the rapid scaling of UNGD [unconventional natural gas development], there has been a surge of peer-reviewed scientific papers published in the past several years (Fig 1). By the end of 2015, over 80% of the peer reviewed scientific literature on shale and tight gas development has been published since January 1, 2013 and over 60% since January 1, 2014. This suggests an emerging understanding of the environmental and public health implications of UNGD in the scientific community. Yet, although numerous hazards and risks have been identified in studies to date, many data gaps remain. Notably, while there is now a far more substantive body of science than there was several years ago, there is still only a limited amount of epidemiology that explores associations between risk factors and health outcomes in human populations .
“Fools rush in …” as the saying goes. We know enough from the research and anecdotal reports available now to recognize substantial risks to communities where fracking is done near where people live and work. Our legislators are being lobbied by energy industry reps who seek to minimize the health risks and focus attention of the prospect of economic benefit. The effects of fracking are long-term, the economic benefit is relatively brief, and accrues mainly to large corporate interests, not to locals.
Everybody needs to slow down, reconsider the public risk, and assess who benefits. In my view, nothing justifies more fracking in Pennsylvania. The US doesn’t need it, and the planet is damaged by burning it.