Health and Environmental Experts:
Follow the Precautionary Principle on Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale
Since 2007, Pennsylvania has witnessed a dramatic increase in unconventional development of natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking” or “fracing”. Hydraulic fracturing uses known toxins and carcinogens in fracking fluids, and produces heavy metals and other solid and liquid wastes. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 1,923 permit violations occurred between January 2008 anden December 20101 during the drilling of only about 2,000 wells. Contamination of soil, air, and groundwater from the large volumes of fluids and wastes used and produced by unconventional gas development represents a clear health hazard to millions in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.2 Last year alone, 151 million gallons of inadequately treated toxic wastewater were dumped into rivers and streams.3 While benefits from the Marcellus Shale may go to those in other states, the health and environmental costs are borne by local residents and ecosystems.
We call upon the government, public and private sector to make necessary investments for research into possible sustainable technology for extracting natural gas. We must take decisive action to protect the health of the people of Pennsylvania and the natural environment of the Commonwealth. When faced with risks of this magnitude, it is imperative to follow the Precautionary Principle: “Where an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, bears the burden of proof.”4 We strongly urge you to impose a moratorium on shale fracturing for gas extraction until the following steps have been completed:
- Public disclosure of all chemicals and wastes including quantities used, produced, and stored at every site;
- Completion and publication of the EPA study5 regarding the safety and health impacts of unconventional gas development using high-volume fracking;
- Completion and publication of an independent cumulative impacts study of unconventional gas development in the Marcellus region; and
- The enactment and strict enforcement of regulations based on the completed studies, sufficient to protect people’s health and the environment, including plans for ecosystem restoration.
Note: Endorsement of this statement is on an individual basis. Academic affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
- Marcellus Shale Inspections/Violations, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2008, 2009, 2010, www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/oilgas/OGInspectionsViolations/OGInspviol.htm
- “Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations Health Effects Spreadsheet and Summary”, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, January 2011.
- Caruso, David. “Pennsylvania Allows Dumping of Tainted Waters from Gas Boom”, Associated Press. 3 January 2010.
- “Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle”, Science and Environmental Health Network, January 1998
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, “Draft Plan to the Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources,” (draft plan, EPA/600/D-11/001/February 2011/www.epagov/research, February 2011)
This statement was developed by the signers and by Cathy Frankenberg, Sebastian Grant-Lucania (Lehigh ’11), and Margaret Allen (Lehigh ’12) who also developed a poster titled ‘Fracking the Marcellus – Will Pennsylvania Be Safe or Sorry?’
- Marcellus Statement F3 [PDF]
- Low-Resolution version of the Fracking the Marcellus – Will Pennsylvania Be Safe or Sorry? poster [PDF]