Phelim McAleer, the new darling of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and of the shale gas industry more generally, is the perfect master of spin. Specializing in personal invective delivered with such a charming Irish accent that some audiences are apparently taken in rather than being repelled by his viciousness, McAleer is on tour with his film, “Frack Nation.” Susan Phillips of StateImpact (WHYY/NPR) reviews Frack Nation here: “Dueling Fracking Films Battle for Pennsylvanians’ Hearts and Minds.”
In “Frack Nation,” McAleer works hard to make it appear “as if” it is just one person, Josh Fox, and not all the scientists, engineers, physicians, researchers and impacted people — residents and workers alike — who is galvanizing a large, increasingly well-developed and well-organized movement. His film makes it appear “as if” Dimock is the only place impacted by fracking, and provides a shameless rewriting of the history of impacts in Dimock. In reality, there are hundreds of places badly impacted by fracking and many films of many lengths, not just GASLAND, documenting those impacts. So the “dueling films” is not a duet but a chorus. ”Triple Divide” is another important, well-made film now available on vimeo. “Gas Rush Stories” is a series of short documentaries by Kirsi Jansa (several posted on this blog). ”Fracking Hell: The Untold Story” is a short, professionally produced 18-minute overview; more raw, powerful new interviews are available on the emerging “Fracking Our Future” series.
You wouldn’t learn any of this, or much of anything, from attending “Frack Nation” screenings anywhere, but we recommend you do go. And we recommend you go prepared to ask McAleer a few questions (though he will only let you ask, at most, one; he is an absolute control freak with that microphone, confident of his right to dominate any who disagree).
Q and A? or Performance Art?
During “Q and A” sessions with McAleer, questions of substance are generally not tolerated, nor (if someone manages to ask one) answered. Instead, McAleer changes the subject multiple times in the course of avoiding answering a question such as, “Mr. McAleer, Ireland has a moratorium on fracking, yet here you are promoting shale gas in the U.S. Can you explain why Ireland has a moratorium on fracking?”
While speaking at a Q and A session in Montrose, PA earlier this week, McAleer pretended the Ireland moratorium question had not been asked at all, preferring to make fun over and over of a Dimock resident whose water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas drilling… because the Dimock resident wore a baseball cap.
That’s right. A baseball cap, apparently, disqualifies a person from speaking about their own contaminated water, in the twisted world of Phelim McAleer.
Sound stupid? It is. Phelim also talks (and talks and talks) about how interested he is in accuracy, truth, and science. But when a scientific study is actually mentioned by a knowledgeable person in the audience — such as the SUNY Buffalo study that shows that fracking mobilizes uranium which naturally occurs in the shale — then he will not only change the subject at lightning speed, but actually cut off the questioner. In Bryn Mawr, he talked over a questioner, trying to make it look like the questioner was misbehaving for attempting to ask, “Phelim, the actual Marcellus cement casing failure rate in Pennsylvania for 2012 is 8.9% (up from 6.2% in 2010); why don’t you include any real facts or data such as that in your film, which is supposed to be all about accuracy?”
Coincidental Choreography: The Same Question Every Night
Phelim also manages his “performance art” — which is what his Q and A sessions really are — in such a way that coincidentally, towards the close of his performance, a person from the audience asks an identical question each night: “Phelim, what do you think the motivations of people like Craig Sautner and Josh Fox are?” This piece of touching choreography enables Phelim to pontificate in an ugly way and call Craig Sautner a greed-driven liar over and over again, knowing full well that Craig is legally bound not to answer back because the Sautners signed a non-disclosure clause with Cabot Oil and Gas as part of the legal settlement over the water contamination that turned his and his family’s lives upside down for years. Non-disclosure clauses are part of the corporate legal infrastructure that enable the Phelims of the shale gas industry, with its army of PR hacks, to spout lies and libel without consequence.
Asked the same coincidental question each night, Phelim moves on from the Sautners back to Fox again. He rants and raves about Josh Fox being a “true believer,” which somehow turns into painting Josh Fox as “un-American,” which shortly thereafter becomes “anti-American.” Phelim has collapsed in his own mind that most democratic of all roles, the whistle-blower, into its opposite. Apparently, in Phelim’s mind, it is “un-American” and possibly criminal to expose damage and to stand up for clean water, clean air, and a sustainable future. And it is all-American to blame victims, such as Craig and Julie Sautner, whose water first went bad on September 11th, 2008.
While I’d heard people saying that Phelim is a “charlatan,” and that his reputation in Ireland is not that of a journalist but rather that of a “limelight-seeking joke” to those who knew him there, it took first-hand experience to understand just how dangerous this spinmaster actually is. When you go to see Frack Nation, go prepared.
Eight Questions for Phelim McAleer
Scott Cannon, of Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, has written eight questions for people attending Q and A sessions or any kind of talks with Phelim McAleer to ask. We recommend not asking a question he can answer with a yes or no, because that gives him a quick out. Ask him to explain. For example, what is it that he thinks he is debunking regarding earthquakes? Activists have been explaining to the general public for years that re-injection wells cause earthquakes (in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia) — and geologists clearly agree — which is a major issue. In addition, fracking itself has been documented to produce small man-made seismic events which Oklahoma geologists have measured, Pennsylvania residents have felt, and which are significant enough for the UK to call off fracking after measuring seismic events underground during shale gas exploratory drilling. What exactly is it that he thinks he is debunking, then?
Here are Scott Cannon’s eight questions for Phelim McAleer:
#1 Phelim, you have said that the water in Dimock has always been fine, but that statement is false. Could you please explain why PA DEP issued a Consent Order against Cabot Oil and Gas for Cabot’s contamination of 18 water wells, affecting 19 families, in Dimock? Here is the link to the final Consent Order on the PA DEP website.
You also say the water in Dimock is fine right now, but that statement is also false. There are problems that still aren’t resolved in 2013; read “Dimock Water Problems Continue,” by Tom Wilber.
Phelim, since you claim to value accuracy, truth, and science, what is your comment about PA DEP’s scientific evidence that gas drilling by Cabot Oil and Gas caused the contamination in Dimock? If you choose not to address that evidence, does that prove that you, like Cabot Oil and Gas, live on a planet where the facts don’t matter?
Phelim, you’ve said that “Fracking’s been done safely since 1947, if there were problems, we’d know about it.” (Fox Money TV Show). But the PA DEP’s Abandoned Wells and Orphaned Wells Program states that there are approximately 180,000 orphaned unplugged wells. Of the 8,000 that the PA DEP know about, 550 are considered problem wells. Approximately 129 are prioritized as extremely dangerous and leaking and polluting water and soil. That’s just in Pennsylvania alone.
Phelim, you say there hasn’t been one case of fracking causing groundwater contamination, but you don’t say what does cause most of the groundwater pollution problems, which are spills and methane migration from the drilling process. Could you explain why you omit the truth about shale gas development and its impacts on water?
Among the many reported cases of fracking causing groundwater contamination is this confirmed case of fracking causing ground water contamination in Edmonton, Canada by Caltex Energy Inc., Hydraulic Fracturing Incident,16-27-068-10W6M, on September 22, 2011.
A study of fracking causing groundwater contamination is ongoing in Pavilion Wyoming, where researchers have confirmed that fracking is the only explanation for the presence of fracking contaminants, such as benzene and 2-butoxyethanol, at high levels in the groundwater there.
Phelim, several Dimock residents have come forward claiming that you told them you were making a film to save Ireland from fracking, in order to obtain interviews with them. Is this true?
Phelim, you claim, early in your movie, that Josh Fox had one of your videos removed from YouTube and Vimeo and allege that was because he had something to hide. You failed to mention that you committed copyright infringement by uploading scenes of the HBO owned “Gasland” in your clips. YouTube copyright policy states that YouTube cannot determine what is considered “Fair Use.” It would have to be settled in a court of law. Did you have this settled in a court of law?
Phelim, you say that some water has had enough methane in it to be able to be lit on fire for centuries, (Fox Money TV Show), which is true. But you don’t say the methane migration from the drilling process is confirmed to produce concentrated methane in people’s water wells – at levels which make the water flammable and which create an explosion risk for those people’s homes — where there was no flammable amounts of methane before. Can you explain why you don’t mention this? You seem to accuse Josh Fox of these omission tactics, yet you do them yourself.
Phelim, you make the statement in your film that environmentalists say that “Fracking is completely unregulated.” That statement is false. We don’t say that. We say it is exempt from requirements in the underground injection control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which is true.
We also point out that flaring, shale gas drilling flowback waste, drill cuttings; air emissions from well pads, separators, dehydrators and compressor stations, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, are vastly underregulated, which is true.
Phelim, Loren Salsman, the resident of Dimock who shows you the Sautner home in your film, shows up in the film Truthland produced by Energy in Depth. He holds a crystal clear glass of water with the star of the film and says “Let’s drink some Dimock water” and they drink. The film doesn’t show the elaborate water filter system it went through provided by Cabot Oil and Gas because they were found guilty of contaminating his well by the DEP. Can you comment on that? Here is the video link.
Your Questions and Observations
Phelim has been at it for a while; for a tidbit from recent history, a pro-Tea Party blog called “ecosense” raves about Phelim’s masterful arguments against slowing down climate change here.
Please feel free to report your experiences with Phelim McAleer, and write your own questions, in our Comments section below this blog post. Thanks.
Ties That Bind: Ernest Moniz, Keystone XL Contractor, American Petroleum Institute and Fracked Gas Exports
Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election, Mitt Romney.
Watchdogs have also discovered that Moniz has worked as a long-time corporate consultant for BP. He has also received the “frackademic” label for his time spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At his MIT job, Moniz regularly accepted millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry to sponsor studies under the auspices of The MIT Energy Initiative, which has received over $145 million over its seven-year history from the oil and gas industry.
MIT’s “The Future of Natural Gas” report, covered by many mainstream media outlets without any effort to question who bankrolled it, was funded chiefly by the American Clean Skies Foundation, a front group for the shale gas industry’s number two domestic producer, Chesapeake Energy. That report concluded that gas is a “bridge fuel” for a renewable energy future and said that shale gas exports were in the best economic interests of the United States, which should “not erect barriers to natural gas imports and exports.”
As first revealed on DeSmogBlog, Moniz is also on the Board of Directors of ICF International, one of the three corporate consulting firms tasked to perform the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) for TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. KXL is slated to bring tar sands – also known as “diluted bitumen,” or “dilbit” – from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be sold to the highest bidder on the global export market.
Moniz earned over $300,000 in financial compensation in his two years sitting on the Board at ICF, plus whatever money his 10,000+ shares of ICF stock have earned him.
Moniz’s American Petroleum Institute Ties to Shale Gas Export Advocacy
Another controversial oil and gas industry export plan exists for fracking.
In this arena, the DOE – via the consulting firm National Economic Research Associates (NERA), a firm with historical ties to Big Tobacco – said exports of the U.S. shale gas bounty (LNG exports) were in the best economic interests of the U.S. in its long-awaited Dec. 2012 report.
In a Feb. 2013 follow-up report the American Petroleum Institute (API) sang the same tune, agreeing with the NERA assessment. In actuality, that report was not even done by API itself, but instead was outsourced to ICF International.
If he receives congressional confirmation, this means Moniz will jump ship from his ICF Board of Directors position and have the final say over DOE LNG export decisions.
While heading the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz also worked alongside John Deutch.
Deutch headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Bill Clinton and now serves as head of the Board of Directors of Cheniere Energy, a corporation that owns many proposed LNG export terminals along the Gulf coast.
Cheniere was the first corporation to sign a deal to export gas from its Sabine Pass terminal and it recently filed a request to the DOE to expand that terminal’s holding capacity. He also headed the DOE fracking subcommittee convened by President Obama in May 2011, which consisted entirely of oil and gas industry insiders.
Further, the Vice President of ICF International is Karl Hausker, the husband of Kathleen “Katie” McGinty, one of the members of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel and also a member of the DOE fracking subcommittee. She recently threw her name into the ring as a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate for the 2014 election in Pennsylvania.
On top of her public sector appointments, McGinty is also an Operating Partner alongside former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell at Element Partners, a Philadelphia, PA-based firm that has capital investments in several firms operating in the Marcellus Shale. McGinty also serves on the Board of Directors of NRG Energy, an electric utility that owns natural gas-fired power plants (and coal and nuclear ones, too – aka “all of the above”) throughout the U.S.
Obama’s Binders Full of Conflicts-of-Interest on LNG Exports
David and Linda Headley moved into their home in Smithfield, PA in 2006. Shortly thereafter, Atlas Energy began drilling and fracking on their land. The results have been a nightmare.
Their water has been contaminated. The stream on their property can be set on fire. Their horses have gotten sick and one has gone partially blind. Their dog had to be rescued from a sludge pond on their property. The family has experienced illness.
They have been fighting for their land and fighting with the industry ever since the companies first showed up on their land, but their struggle now has reached a new level of absurdity.
The company has now locked the gate that crosses the only usable driveway onto the Headleys’ property. The gate which had previously given access to both the Headleys and the industry is now locked with a chain that only provides room for one padlock, the industry’s.
Susan Kelly, who covered the story for the Herald Standard, reported the chain of events leading up to this as follows:
When the Atlas workers came by to conduct the most recent blowdown, Dave Headley said he went over to tell them to stop.
His 4-year-old son was outside in the yard, and his 17-year-old son was about 100 feet away, chopping wood, he said. Dave Headley said he received no warning or advisement that the blowdown was about to occur.
“If it was your children, you wouldn’t let them play in it either,” Dave Headley said he told the workers.
A state police trooper visited later to tell Dave Headley not to harass the workers, and not long after that, the Atlas workers came back to put a lock the gate, Dave Headley said. This time, however, there was only one break in the chain — for the Atlas lock — and there was no way for the Headleys to put their own lock on the chain as they had in the past, he said.
As Linda Headley stated at the PA Harmed by Fracking press conference this past January, the Headleys are one of many PA residents who have been ignored, lied to, or dismissed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). They are also being ignored by workers on their own property. David’s attempts to talk to workers about the locked gate were futile.
What am I supposed to do if I need to get in here?”
That’s the question Dave Headley asked a worker from Atlas Resource Partners, the company who owns a deep Marcellus shale gas well on his property. The worker, Headley said, secured the gate at the end of the driveway leading to the Headleys’ house with a padlock wrapped in barbed wire.
He got no response from the man on the other side of the gate.
The ExxonMobile Pegasus Pipeline runs from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas. It is more than 60 years old and it has the capacity to transport more than 90,000 barrels of oil per day.
Last Friday, in Little Rock, Arkansas, it burst.
Twelve thousand barrels of Canadian tar sands oil ran into the backyards of a housing development near Lake Conway, Arkansas. Twenty-two homes were evacuated. The spill occurred in the Lake Maumelle watershed, which provides drinking water to nearly 400,000 people in central Arkansas.
To make matters even worse, tar sands oil, (crude oil) is not legally considered “conventional oil.” That means it is not taxed as conventional oil.
This means ExxonMobile is exempt from contributing to the government’s oil spillage cleanup fund, even though many argue that tar sands oil is more toxic and more corrosive to pipes than conventional oil.
Oil spills can have serious health impacts; residents impacted by the 2010 Enbridge tar sands oil spill reported health symptoms, including seizures. David Turnbull, campaign director for Oil Change International, puts the current Arkansas spill and the massive 2010 Enbridge spill into context:
Tar sands oil spills, or bitumen spills, are indeed more dangerous than ‘conventional oil’ spills. We have already seen the extreme costs and damages of tar sands oil spills in recent years, most notably in Michigan where an Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands in 2010 resulted in the costliest on-land oil spill in US history…
As these sorts of heavy oils that are exempt from this tax continue to make up a larger percentage of oil transported in the US, it will only serve to stretch the fund even further, while putting families, communities, and ecosystems at greater risk,” Turnbull said.
See this aerial video footage of last Friday’s spill by video journalist Adam Randall:
Giving voice to the gut-level response from people disturbed by the destruction, Eric Peters, co-founder of the Growing Community project of West Chester, Pennsylvania, commented:
This is already an ecological disaster. The fight against extreme energy extraction and for a just and sustainable world is in every sense a fight for our survival.
Fracking, Extreme Energy Extraction, and the Struggle for Our Future: April 4th Panel at “Water is Life” Photo Exhibit
Physician, Rabbi, Union Leader, Student Organizer Speak Out; “Water is Life” Photos Highlight Impacted People, Resisters
Panel Connects Fight Against Fracking to Broader Struggle Against Extreme Energy Extraction, Processing, Distribution and Use
This Thursday, April 4th, as part of a lively “Water is Life” celebration from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, a multi-generational panel will bring multiple perspectives to bear on the crisis of extreme energy extraction — high-volume fracking, mountaintop removal, and tar sands, in particular. The event, free and open to the public, is at 2111 Sansom Street in Philadelphia (all details below).
The panel includes John Braxton, a founder of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and US Labor Against the War. Braxton has organized for workers rights in the Teamsters Union, where he helped build the national UPS strike in 1997 that led to the creation of 10,000 full-time jobs, and currently is co-president of the union that represents 1300 faculty and staff at Community College of Philadelphia. As a peace activist during the Vietnam War, he helped deliver medical supplies to civilians in North Vietnam in violation of federal laws, and served 16 1/2 months in federal prison for draft refusal. As a biology teacher and ecologist, he is increasingly turning his activist attention towards slowing the process of climate change and ecosystem degradation. He has helped lead his union at Community College of Philadelphia in opposition to fracking and mountain top removal coal mining.
You can read Braxton’s full profile here. The other members of the Thursday evening panel are:
Dr. Pouné Saberi is an Occupational and Environmental Medicine physician as well as a public health specialist. She is currently working on a pilot project that surveys community perceptions of natural gas operations and their impact on health problems.
Hannah Jones is a Swarthmore College alum and organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice; you can see her speaking here about the “Sordid Sixteen” gas, oil and coal corporations targetted by the divestment campaign with which Hannah works.
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling is the founder and director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He has served on the boards of national and international organizations promoting social justice, environmental sustainability, human rights, worker justice and peace. Last week he was arrested in front of the White House calling on the president to take strong actions to protect our environment.
Protecting Our Waters has brought together the event, including the panel, with live Q and A; refreshments; and exceptionally engaging photographs of people impacted by unconventional coal and gas extraction — and popular resistance to fracking — by photographers Mark Schmerling and JJ Tiziou. We are grateful to the panelists; to our generous host, the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion; to the photographers, and to volunteer curator par excellence, Tamara Clements. The event is free and open to the public.
The panel is one-half hour, leaving an hour and a half for free discussion, refreshments, photo admiration, and music!
Protecting Our Waters, a tiny nonprofit grassroots advocacy group, directly assists impacted communities when and where possible and works to prevent, stop, and phase out fracking, as well as to protect living beings from its worst impacts where it is already happening. POW has earned its reputation as “the galvanizers” since its founding in fall 2009, working in the Philadelphia area, Delaware River Basin, statewide in PA, and regionally in the Marcellus and Utica Shale seven-state region. Please bring your checkbook, as well as a little cash for the door raffle, or to purchase “Shalefield Stories.”
When: Thursday April 4th, 2013 / 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
What: Panel Discussion, “Fracking, Extreme Energy Extraction, and the Struggle for our Future”
What else: Photo Exhibit: “Water is Life: Faces of the Betrayed” — Mark Schmerling; and
“Water is Life: Faces of the Engaged” — JJ Tiziou
Where: Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion (look for the Shakespeare flag)
2111 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Parking: Park in the lot immediately to the right (east) of 2111 Sansom and validate your ticket at the church.
Public Transit: Just a block and a half from Market Street — just take the Green Line trolley.
Why: As Mordechai Liebling puts it, ”Global climate change is the moral issue of our time.”
As John Braxton puts it: ”The issues of climate change and ecosystem degradation are completely connected to the issues of economic justice and war. The giant multinational corporations’ unchecked drive for profits is the major impetus in all of these area. There will be no victories in any of these areas, unless we all work together to link the movement for a sustainable economy with the movements for social justice and peace. Halting extreme energy extraction is one of the key issues we must work on immediately.”
As a fracking industry truck driver put it recently, “They are radiating us and poisoning us. I used to be the most pro-fracking person you could find. Now that I’ve seen what they do, I’m the most anti-fracking person you can find.”
Questions- email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-840-6489
Kirsi Jansa’s short video, “Gas Rush Stories Part 5: A Neighbor,“ highlights the story of Pam Judy, her husband, and her two children, who live 780 feet from a compressor station in Carmichaels, Green County Pennsylvania. Pam details the health problems that her and her family have suffered since the compressor station was installed: headaches, sore throats, nosebleeds, vertigo, mouth blisters, some of which have landed them in the emergency room.
Pam argues that we must look to the past to gain perspective on what is happening here in Pennsylvania, and what will continue to happen to our communities, our land, and the health of our citizens:
It wasn’t right when they were drilling into the Barnett shale in Texas. Many of those people in that area experience the same problems that I’m having right now and that drilling occurred several years ago. And they are just now conducting a long – term study.
Pam also argues in this 18 minute documentary, that we must learn from similar historic examples of toxic contamination, where the effects of a substance were not known or documented until it was too late.
We have both our government, federal, state and local, all telling us that this is not harmful, and we have industry telling us this is not harmful. That is the very same thing that happened with asbestos. When they began using asbestos and then we learn years later exactly what happens. And my family actually, you knowm suffered the consequences of that. I lost my mother because of it. And that is really a fear of mine.
During an NPR segment back in 2009, Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas, located on the Barnett Shale just north of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, echoes Pam’s encouragement that we learn from the mistakes that have already been made in his town. Tillman was forced to move his family to a safer location after his own son suffered nosebleeds caused by the compressor station emissions in Dish. He reflects,
If you don’t learn from what has happened here, by the time that the odor gets bad enough for you to not want it there, by the time that the noise gets loud enough that it’s disturbing you, it’s already too late.
PA Doctors, Health Advocates and Residents Urge NY Health Commissioner Shah to Consider PA Fracking Health Impacts in NY Review
Dr. Nirav Shah
New York State Commissioner of Health
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237
Dear Dr. Shah:
We the undersigned doctors, public health advocates, citizen leaders and residents of Pennsylvania, share your belief that health care is an ecosystem—which was to be the topic of your now-cancelled public lecture today. Bereft of any concern comparable to that shown by the Governor of New York and by you, we are in crisis, subject to a wholesale onslaught by the unconventional gas drilling industry. Outside the public gaze, we endure health impacts from volatile organic chemicals, blowouts, fires, contaminated water, hazardous air pollutants, diesel exhaust and more. We would like to make sure our voices are heard today while you are visiting our state. To begin, we have three pleas:
First, as the New York Health Commissioner, you are a vital part of the ecosystem of health care for the entire Marcellus Shale region. So we, the people of Pennsylvania, see it as urgent that you continue to hold the line and maintain your state’s moratorium on shale gas development. The full life-cycle impacts from shale gas development are not proven safe for animal and human health. The cases of sickness are widespread across Pennsylvania shale country. Many have been hidden by means of non-disclosure clauses, but still, we have compiled a “List of the Harmed,” over 900 individuals and families identified in the public record as harmed by shale gas drilling so far. We can identify the suffering and symptoms, but we cannot pinpoint the multiple migratory pathways for chemical exposure, so it is not possible to guarantee that any proposed regulations on shale gas extraction will keep people safe.
Second, in your ongoing study of the health effects of fracking, you need the case studies, the symptoms, and the data about migratory pathways for exposure, for Pennsylvania residents impacted by shale gas development. Our own state blindly allows drilling and fracking operations without health data. Please don’t make that same mistake in New York. We believe you need to study cases of sickness and contamination in Pennsylvania. Given that public records of shale gas development-related health complaints in Pennsylvania do not exist, we stand ready to help. Walter Tsou, MD, former President, American Public Health Association, former Philadelphia Commissioner of Health, and current President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, can arrange for you to visit and study Pennsylvania’s impacted families. In addition, the results of the Geisinger, UPenn, and EPA studies are essential to your investigation, and we ask that you wait for them.
Of course, behind every data point lies a human life. So, third, we appeal to you as a physician. Here in Pennsylvania, we need your help. Governor Corbett forced the resignation of Secretary of Health Eli Avila, who had recommended creating a state registry for health complaints related to shale gas development. Health impacts are still not being tracked by our Department of Health. Thus, the New York Times (November 2011) documented the Haney and Voyles’ families’ suffering, for example, including a little boy who suffered intestinal pain for over a year. An open toxic fracking waste impoundment, situated just out of sight near their homes, had been impacting their health, destroying their families’ well-being, and killing 21 of their animals (including stillbirths). But our Department of Health claimed to be “not aware” of these impacts, turning a similarly blind eye to the burning eyes, sore throats and headaches suffered by the Hallowich family, the Headley family, and hundreds of others. Our Department of Environmental Protection now seeks even more exemptions for the industry it is supposed to regulate, despite reports of throat burns from chemical inhalation at flare sites; severe nosebleeds due to toxic emissions – ethylene glycol, for one — from dehydrators, and more.
Dr. Shah, our states are inextricably interconnected. Please help us by asking the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health to thoroughly document all shale gas development health complaints, whether related to drilling and fracking, flaring and flowback waste handling, compressor stations or gas processing facilities, gas storage facilities, pipeline incidents, LNG and cracker plant facilities, or re-injection well impacts. We need your holistic and humane view of health care as an ecosystem, to help us reach our own state’s Department of Health, which has done nothing to help our impacted people. Private citizens raised funds to provide clean water to 30 families in Butler County, Pennsylvania, all last year; that water drive continues to exhaust its coordinators. So, please also intercede on our behalf so that our Department of Health begins protecting us and supplying impacted people with water when needed.
Commissioner Shah, secrecy clouds the fracking debate like a toxic cloak. The industry keeps a substantial number of fracking chemicals proprietary, just as the tobacco industry has done, keeping public health researchers at a disadvantage.Little-known impacts increase here day by day. Well casing failure rates in PA have risen from 6.2% in 2010 to 8.9% in 2012, for example. Residents and health professionals have been shocked by the intensity of flaring; the constant leaching of toxic materials into soil and groundwater from plastic-lined flowback waste pits; and by the physicians’ gag order, which prevents doctors in Pennsylvania from releasing information about propriety fracking chemicals even for the purpose of protecting public health. Please help us to pull back this cloak.
Aside from the “shale gas roulette” of acute health impacts, the heavy methane and C02 emissions from the full life-cycle impacts of shale gas are now known by scientists to be even worse than coal for climate. Climate change is the number one health crisis faced by our world today. The methane leakage rates have been recorded to be as high as an astronomical 9%, even without including pipeline and compressor station leaks. In the twenty-year time frame, methane is 105 times more potent a greenhouse gas than C02, according to NASA. This makes fracking salt in the wounds of our burning climate. To protect health, protect climate.
This is no time for toxic secrets. It’s time to build the resilience of our communities’ health on the local, state, and planetary scale.
Please do everything you can to protect our intertwined ecosystems, and to protect public health.
-Walter Tsou, MD, MPH
Chair Of The Board
Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia
Former Health Commissioner of Philadelphia
-Carla Campbell, MD, MS
Pediatrician, public health physician, and board member
Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia
-Julie Becker, PhD, MPH
Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia
-Teresa Méndez-Quigley, MSW, LSW
Director, Environmental Health Programs
Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia
-Vincent Pedre, MD
Pedre Integrative Health of NYC
-Alfonso Rodriguez, MD
Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Tour de Frack
Food & Water Watch
-Iris Marie Bloom
Protecting Our Waters
-Marjorie Van Cleef
Committee to End Wars
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Member of Protecting Our Waters Organizing Committee
-J.Stephen Cleghorn, PhD
Owner – Paradise Gardens and Farm
Mothers United for Sustainable Technologies (M.U.S.T.)
Save Cummins Hill
Pennsylvania Federation BMWED-Teamsters
Berks Gas Truth
Director of GASLAND
Milanville PA and Brooklyn NY
Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air
PA Forest Coalition
-Eric David Peters
Growing Community Project of West Chester, PA
Keep Tap Water Safe
-Maya van Rossum
The Delaware Riverkeeper
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
-Rev. Leah D. Schade
Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, PA
Ph.D. Candidate, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Founder, Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition
Citizens for Clean Water
Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania
Marcellus Outreach Butler
Green Party of Pennsylvania