More than 100 organizations and 800 individuals have signed a public anti-fracking letter addressed to the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf. Within its 14 pages is a call to action for the Governor to direct the state Department of Health to open a series of investigations into the potential links between shale gas development or “fracking” and a sharp increase childhood and young adult cancers.
Summarizing The Anti-Fracking Letter
The anti-fracking letter consists of 14 pages from advocacy groups, celebrity endorsers, and concerned citizens. Of its 14-page girth, 12 pages are entirely dedicated to the columns of signers and endorsers.
The anti-fracking letter requests that all new shale gas permitting be placed on hold until the proposed health investigations can demonstrate that the cancers that have been cropping up in rural Pennsylvania are not linked to shale gas drilling and fracking operations in the same areas.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who covered the anti-fracking letter and its journey into Gov. Wolf’s hands, has documented at least 67 cases of cancers occurring in children and young adults in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. These areas are also the locations of active shale gas operations. The most shocking detail of these reports is that 27 of the reported cases, or 40.3%, are cases of a rare bone cancer known as Ewing sarcoma.
A state health department review that predates the anti-fracking letter examined 12 Ewing sarcoma cases in Westmoreland County and six cases in the Canon-McMillan School District in Washington County, but that study did not conclude that either met the criteria for designation as a “cancer cluster.”
In their own defense, the shale gas industry has vehemently denied the existence of any link between human health risks and the air and water pollutants emitted by widespread drilling, fracking, processing, and transport operations, and states that there would be no harm in expanding this process.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer made written responses to questions stating: “We are disappointed that some activists choose to sensationalize tragedy, make inflammatory suggestions that run counter to the views of respected medical experts, top environmental and health regulators and decades of scientific data and research.” Despite Mr. Spigelmyer’s passionate claims that science sided with the Shale Coalition, the anti-fracking letter did include evidence that each of the over 12,000 wells that have been drilled and fracked in the four Pennsylvania counties in the last 15 years has been shown to bring with them a host of toxic chemicals. Many of these chemicals are not only toxic to the body, but also known carcinogens.
Additionally, the anti-fracking letter included a Yale study that identified more than 55 fracking chemicals as known or potential carcinogens. Although the study recommends further research into the relationship between shale gas development and the “risk of cancer in general and childhood leukemia in particular,” it too speaks in contrast to David Spigelmyer’s statements.
In fact, many of those chemicals pose a high risk to children and at-risk populations, the anti-fracking letter states. It is also noted that there are numerous peer-reviewed public health studies finding associations between shale gas drilling and fracking and low birth weights in babies, birth defects, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
Ms. Raina Rippel, director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, has also come out in support of the anti-fracking letter. The Washington County nonprofit does educational outreach about the health impacts of shale gas drilling. Ms. Rippel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Many in the community are quick to seize on legacy causes like radioactive waste [for the occurrences of cancers] but something has changed. The indices of childhood cancer are out of whack. And what’s changed, what’s new, is the shale gas industry.”
“We may be on the leading edge of what could be a real cancer crisis in the shale gas drilling and fracking industry,” claims Ms. Sandra Steingraber, a biologist at Ithaca College and founder of Concerned Health Professionals of NY. Steingraber has noted that studies show high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in the urine of gas well workers, and others that found children living within 500 feet of gas wells in Colorado have higher rates of leukemia.
For more information about the risks of Fracking on communities, see Parker Waichman’s complex litigation section on fracking.
How The Anti-Fracking Letter Affects Litigation Claims
The anti-fracking letter has been delivered to Governor Wolf, it will be up to him to decide whether the gears of litigation will move towards suspending fracking or researching the letter’s alleged connections. While the governor deliberates, real evidence exists in the form of studies that fracking is a harmful practice to individuals. If you or a loved one have found yourself to be the victim of cancers or health conditions and have lived extensively in an area affected by fracking, don’t wait. Let Parker Waichman pursue your justice.
At Parker Waichman LLP, experienced attorneys and law experts are prepared to pursue your claims using existing studies and expert testimony to earn you the compensation you deserve. Contact Parker Waichman today for a free consultation and begin your journey to recovery.
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