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Ohio Utica Shale

New survey says fracking may cause health problems

By Bob Downing Published: October 19, 2012

From Bloomberg News:

People living near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania say drilling has triggered respiratory problems, fatigue, severe headaches and skin rashes, according to a study from Earthworks, a Washington-based environmental group.

The findings come from a survey released Thursday of 108 residents in 14 Pennsylvania counties. Since 2009, more than 5,000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale using hydraulic fracturing. This process requires sending millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand underground to break shale rock and free trapped gas.

“Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before, which is a strong indication that they’re occurring because of gas development,” Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator for Earthworks and lead author of the study, said on a conference call. There should be ‘‘no more permitting for drilling until the health impacts can be fully understood.’’ The group says that air samples reveal 19 volatile organic compounds, some of which can be linked to gas development.

Fracking has lowered U.S. energy prices, created jobs and enhanced national security, according to a task force formed by President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Critics say the benefits may not outweigh the environmental and health risks. Fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania, high ozone levels in Wyoming and now to health impacts for people living close to wells. Those living closer to gas wells reported higher rates of symptoms, according to the study. The survey was distributed to both Earthworks’ existing contacts in communities where drilling has occurred and other people who were referred to the group.

‘‘We are not saying this is definitive cause-and-effect proof,” Steinzor said. “What we’re saying is there are a lot of associations that are very strong and that need to be investigated further.”

The study results are questionable because of the participants chosen for the survey may have come in with a bias against drilling, according to Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.

"By the ‘researchers’ own admission, their so-called methodology clearly demonstrates that this is not a work of objective scientific research, given that they relied completely upon ‘existing contacts’ and others who attended their anti-natural gas ‘public events’ for their survey," Forde said in an e-mail.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.