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Fracking Hush Money Keeps Victims' Stories Out of Public Eye

Jun 7, 2013

Companies actively drilling hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells in Pennsylvania have been paying out hush money to keep quiet people who’ve had their health affected by the drilling.

According to a Bloomberg News report, fracking drillers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to people living near fracking wells who have sued companies alleging the drilling had affected their health. The settlement money comes with one caveat … people who accept the money mustn’t speak publicly about it.

This hush money has kept news and data about the health impact of fracking drilling under the proverbial rug. Unless someone who has accepted the settlement money - or in some cases, the money that a driller offers to move the alleged victims off their property - is willing to come forward publicly and tell their story and risk losing the money the were offered, more evidence of the negative impacts of fracking are likely to go unheard.

Our previous reports show that fracking drilling can have not only environmental impacts but also adverse effects on the health of people living closest to them. After a fracking well is opened, the risk of groundwater being contaminated with the chemicals used and toxins produced in the process increases. People living within a mile of an active fracking well, according to our previous reports, face the greatest risk of having their private water wells contaminated. If they begin drinking this water, their health could take a turn for the worse quickly.

People who claim their wells have been contaminated because of nearby fracking operations say the process has tainted their water with toxic levels of methane gas, benzene, and other dangerous elements.

Of course, the fracking industry disputes all these claims and says the process is safe and should be seen as a boon to a local community. At the same time, according to the Bloomberg report, they’re paying this hush money, not only in Pennsylvania but in other areas where fracking is conducted, from Arkansas to California.

In one example, provided by Bloomberg’s report, one Pennsylvania was offered $750,000 by Range Resources Corp., a major driller operating in the state, after they had sued the company and blamed its drilling for causing them to suffer numerous health side effects. Those complaints included eye, skin, and throat irritations. The family also said the drilling had poisoned their drinking water.

And unless these victims are willing to lose their settlement money or reject it and take their cases to a public court, data and information on the effects of fracking drilling will continue to go unheard. In this case of the Pennsylvania family whose story has gone public, a judge unsealed the documents that detailed the settlement after requests filed by several media outlets, according to Bloomberg.

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