Report Slams Drilling Oversight in Pennsylvania
State regulators have failed to prevent Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling industry from sickening people and poisoning air and water, a grand jury concluded in a report issued after a 2-year investigation.
State regulators have failed to prevent Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling industry from sickening people and poisoning air and water, a grand jury concluded in a report issued on 25 June after a 2-year investigation.
“The giant fracking companies were given a free pass by unprepared agencies, and the public was harmed. Plain and simple,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference.
The jurors’ eight recommendations included wider buffers between drilling activity and homes, schools, and hospitals; public disclosure of the mix of chemicals used; and heightened regulation of how the waste water created by drilling is transported.
“Government oversight of this activity was for many years poor and has only recently showed signs of improvement,” jurors wrote in the introduction to a 235-page report.
Witnesses from 70 households, mostly in rural parts of the state, told of being left with sores after showering with contaminated water, seeing farm animals die or become infertile, and trying to help children plagued by a bewildering array of health problems.
The jurors concluded the industry is making children sick, listing rashes, headaches, nose bleeds, bruising, cramps, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, tremors, and stabbing or burning sensations.
Symptoms would often go away when people left their homes.
“That is not a reality we are wiling to accept,” jurors wrote.
Witnesses said living near a drilling pad can be noisy, dirty, and annoying, with constant truck traffic and “blinding” light at all hours of the night.
Water could taste like formaldehyde, smell like sulfur, and leave a black sludge in toilets.
“Some people had to sleep in a corner of the basement trying to get away from it,” jurors wrote. “The vibrations from drilling and fracking were sometimes so intense that all the worms were forced up out of the ground.”
The grand jury said state environmental regulators failed to file violations against the industry, to tell the public about violations that could be a risk to health, and to refer violations for criminal investigation. The grand jury also criticized the Department of Health for not collecting data of past issues.
A statement from the agencies under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf blamed his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
“This administration has acted aggressively to address the previous administration’s regulatory failures, remove restrictions on enforcement, and has put in place new regulations to hold natural gas companies to some of the most stringent environmental standards anywhere in the country,” the Wolf administration statement said.