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Farmers to Corbett: “Here’s the science. Protect our animals and crops!”

February 2, 2012

For Immediate Release 

February 2, 2012
Stephen Cleghorn, Organic Farmer, Paradise Gardens and Farm, Jefferson County, PA (814) 568-1207
Iris Marie Bloom, Director, Protecting Our Waters, Philadelphia, PA:  (215) 840-6489

Farmers to Corbett: “Here’s the science. Stop the drilling.”
Peer-reviewed study, “Gas Drilling Impacts on Human and Animal Health” documents deaths, recommends halt

(Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) A new study confirming stillbirths, deformities, other reproductive difficulties and illnesses among multiple species, including over 100 dead cows, blames gas drilling for the severe health impacts and refers to animals as important sentinels for human health impacts from shale gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. Animals have shorter reproductive cycles and are exposed to toxic gas drilling contaminants that move through water and air, say the peer-reviewed study authors, Michelle Bamberger, MS, DVM, and Robert Oswald, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Professor of Pharmacology. Bamberger and Oswald spent a full year carefully documenting 20 cases in six states.

“We need to protect the water,” Governor Corbett said in April 2011, speaking to a group of Township Supervisors. “We need to protect the environment. But we must do it based on science and not emotion.” “Here is the science, Governor Corbett,” commented organic farmer Stephen Cleghorn, “and I’m going to make sure you read it.”

In December, Corbett appointee Richard Allan, Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, slashed the budget for DCNR wildlife research by nearly 70 percent. On January 18th, StateImpact reported that “Documents [we] obtained…as well as interviews with more than a dozen people who work both inside and out of state government, highlight top-level decisions to diminish or defund drilling-related scientific research in the commonwealth.”

The Bamberger-Oswald study, published in January in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, leaves no doubt that gas drilling killed or injured the animals studied, including horses, goats, dogs, fish, cows and other species. It is quoted below and both the link and PDF are available here:

Stephen Cleghorn and Jenny Lisak are both organic farmers who live within ten miles of Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania, where a famous feature of Pennsylvania wildlife pokes his head up annually with a weather forecast. But the two farmers are concerned about a different kind of forecast: the fracking forecast. Both of their farms are threatened by gas drilling permit applications on nearby properties.

“I can’t foresee a way to continue our organic farming enterprise when we can’t see a way to assure the health of ourselves and our livestock, as well as the organic status of our produce and fruits,” said Jenny Lisak. “We are forced to live so close to industrial operations, and I’d like to see some real leadership and compassion for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

Both farmers call on Governor Corbett to halt gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from shale. Stephen Cleghorn said, “Governor Corbett has famously said that he is a prosecutor by training and he needs evidence on whether gas drilling is harmful or not. The Bamberger-Oswald study provides that evidence in the form of 24 cases that deserve his attention. The forecast for fracking in Pennsylvania is that it will destroy our water, our crops and our livestock over the near and long term.”

Cleghorn added, “Wild animals like [Punxsatawney] Phil’s cousins who live on our farms will find themselves in harm’s way, along with our domestic animals.”

The Bamberger-Oswald study includes two particular cases of over 90 deaths and high levels of stillbirths among cattle, in which “accidental control groups” existed because cattle in a nearby pasture did not have access to the stream or pond contaminated by toxic gas drilling waste. The “control groups” remained healthy, decimating the common industry claim that contaminants must somehow have been “pre-existing” and unrelated to gas drilling:

Two cases involving beef cattle farms inadvertently provided control and experimental groups. In one case, a creek into which wastewater was allegedly dumped was the source of water for 60 head, with the remaining 36 head in the herd kept in other pastures without access to the creek. Of the 60 head that were exposed to the creek water, 21 died and 16 failed to produce calves the following spring. Of the 36 that were not exposed, no health problems were observed, and only one  cow failed to breed.

At another farm, 140 head were exposed when the liner of a wastewater impoundment was allegedly slit, as reported by the farmer, and the fluid drained into the pasture and the pond used as a source of water for the cows. Of those 140 head exposed to the wastewater, approximately 70 died and there was a high incidence of stillborn and stunted calves. The remainder of the herd (60 head) was held in another pasture and did not have access to the wastewater; they showed no health or growth problems. These cases approach the design of a controlled experiment, and strongly implicate wastewater exposure in the death, failure to breed, and reduced growth rate of cattle.

While assuring that those who object to gas drilling will not disturb the peace of Puxsatawney on the “banner day” (February 2nd, Groundhog Day) for the small town, Cleghorn asserted, “The governor’s support for natural gas drilling threatens to poison water and air for over one-half the land mass of Pennsylvania. He does not get to walk around anywhere or anytime in this state without being challenged on that.”


  1. February 2, 2012 8:37 am

    how much more evidence is needed to halt the drilling— do we have to have mass die-outs! thanks, for this latest report by dedicated people checking out the details of what is happening around our country.

  2. February 2, 2012 8:45 am

    How can others support this excellent presentation and put more pressure on Corbett? Petition? Individual letters? Mass protest in front of his office? What will it take to get the governor to go against his handlers in the gas industry?

    Our certified organic produce farm in NE Susquehanna County is also in the cross-hairs of the gas industry, with surrounding land leased and a feeder pipeline slated for 1 mile down our road within the next couple of months.

    Please let me know what actions we can take that might help.

    • Elaine permalink
      February 2, 2012 3:48 pm

      Every Senator, State Representative, Congressman and Department head in PA should have a copy of this study with a strong letter of recommendation and challenge. I don’t want to hear – in 5 years – that they “didn’t know”.

  3. Joe Bozzelli (Five Elements Farm) permalink
    February 22, 2012 10:22 am

    Like Stephen and Jenny our small organic farm is impacted by drilling on an adjoining property. It is only a small vertical Marcellus well and not the huge impact that the horizontal wells have but it concerns us just the same since it is only 600 feet from our fields and 1000 feet from our house. We monitor it everyday with video and photographs but it still does not help that it is there and impacting our lifestyle and potentially our lively hood.


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