Commentary: Impact of Fracking Eludes Us

Hancock Compressor StationAlbany Times Union - 6:03 pm, Sunday, November 9, 2014

By Wes Gillingham, Commentary

While the gas industry continues to mislead the public about the harmful health and environmental impacts of unconventional natural gas development (also called hydraulic fracturing or fracking), evidence of its dangers is mounting...


The latest revelation comes with the publication last week of a report on the impact on air quality from gas and oil extraction, processing and distribution in six states, including our own. The report, convened by Coming Clean, a collaborative of more than 200 groups working on environmental health issues, presents data from air samples collected around natural gas compressor stations and other facilities in New York, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming, using the same equipment and methods that federal and state agencies use. The results document an array of hazardous chemicals in the air around these sites, often at levels far higher than traditional federal health and safety standards, and in some cases in concentrations that pose an immediate health threat to anyone exposed.

Data collected around a blowdown incident at a compressor station in Hancock, N.Y., showed elevated levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and various petroleum gases. Samples collected around compressor stations in Pennsylvania contained formaldehyde at more than 7,000 percent above the Environmental Protection Agency's acceptable cancer risk levels.

These findings may only be the tip of the iceberg. Air samples were taken only on days when leaks were suspected or when area residents showed possible symptoms of exposure. Useful as this data is, more comprehensive sampling is required to fully assess emissions from these facilities.

Nonetheless, the study shows that government agencies are failing to monitor important emissions from gas and oil operations and infrastructure. Industry is proposing and getting approval for new projects without demonstrating an absence of health and environmental impacts, and without real oversight from responsible authorities. The result is that we simply do not know the full extent of the public health threat imposed on our communities...


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