Fracked Gas Death Toll

(Republished blog from December 10, 2019)

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) crunched the numbers on a dozen years of shale gas development in our tri-state region, concluding shale gas development is not worth the costs.

Image: Marcellus Shale wells drilled and fracked, in and around Cross Creek County Park, Washington County, Pennsylvania. At least two hydraulic fracturing spills, and one fish kill, have taken place inside the park since drilling began there. Video

The story appeared in the December 8, 2019 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Is shale development worth the costs? A CMU study says no. Research finds shale gas jobs don’t offset damage done.
Although the massive shale gas build-out in the Appalachian Basin has produced significant economic benefits, a new Carnegie Mellon University study says all the drilling, fracking and cracking isn’t worth the environmental, health and climate damage. The study estimates air pollution from shale gas development activities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia from 2004 to 2016 resulted in 1,200 to 4,600 premature deaths in the region, and while most of the added employment occurred in rural areas, most of the health impacts were felt in urban areas.

A Princeton study points to what sort of trade-offs we’re looking at:

For every three job years created by the shale gas industry, one year of life is lost for a resident in the region
Erin Mayfield, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Princeton Environmental Institute, said better analytic tools that account for climate, environmental and public health impacts are needed to help policymakers make good decisions. According to the study, for every three job years created by the industry (three people each working one year or one working three years), one year of life is lost for a resident in the region. That means someone died a year prematurely due to increased pollution exposure for every three years of employment in the shale gas industry.


Image: Meantime, Pittsburgh has been trying to “clean up its act” by adhering to the principles of the Paris climate agreement. Fracking was banned in the City of Pittsburgh nine years ago…
”In 2010, the city council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unanimously (9-0) adopted the Pittsburgh Community Bill of Rights, which created enforceable rights to clean water and air, recognized legal rights of the natural environment to exist and flourish, reaffirmed the right of local community self-government, and, in order to protect these rights, banned the extraction of natural gas using fracking and related activities.” Source

Study recommends a $2 production tax to ease the environmental and climate change pain:

To compensate for the environmental and climate change costs of the region’s shale gas industry, the study recommends a production tax of $2 for every 1,000 cubic feet of gas to account for air quality and climate change impacts. Based on existing severance tax or impact fee revenue and production rates from 2004 to 2016 in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, the shale gas industry paid just 8 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of gas produced, the study said.


Image: “Under the Dome” in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Chances of a gas drilling severance tax ever getting passed by a GOP-controlled, pro-fracking legislature in Harrisburg are “slim-to-none.”

Another story in the December 8, 2019 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expands further on our shale gas pollution:

“You can’t pollute your way to prosperity”
Emissions generated in Washington County — with one of the highest level of shale gas development statewide — bear the highest mortality costs per ton in Western Pennsylvania because the county sits directly upwind of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, the region’s highest population center, CMU pollution models show. Southwestern Pennsylvania has elevated diesel pollution with contributors including shale-gas truck and train traffic crisscrossing the region.


Image: Our tri-state area is often referred to as “STEELERS COUNTRY

Shale gas promoters rave about the prospect of a new petrochemical hub in the Ohio River Valley with buzz words like “money and jobs,” while also calling it “clean burning natural gas.” Problem is — that ‘spin’ ignores the human toll in “Steelers Country” — past, present and future!

One Comment on “Fracked Gas Death Toll

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