Of mice, cows, men and sperm counts

A report published October 2015 entitled ‘Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Adverse Health Outcomes After Prenatal Exposure in Male Mice’, has stated that there is a possible reduction in reproductive health in both humans and livestock as a result of significant exposure to chemicals related to high volume hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE).

One must ask:

‘Can you really take the results of a scientific study involving lab mice, and confidently state that the same results that happened to the mice, are guaranteed to apply cows and humans?’

Well, the answer is no. You can’t, becasue mice, livestock and humans are different species of animal. We have different biological systems from one another. Just because something can negatively affect a mouse, it will not hold as guarantee that it can negatively affect a cow or a human. In other words, just becasue I like eating cheese, it does not hold that I will get caught in a mouse trap. And yet, be it mouse, cow or human, were you to cut off our heads, as organisms, we would all die. So, you do need to be able to investigate what will and won’t affect us in the same manner. In fact, there are parallels to this situation with lab mice and fracking chemicals, and the miners of yester year who brought canaries down the mines with them. The canaries acted as an indicator that there may be risk of harm to human health.

The results form teh paper were taken from experiements run on C57BL/6 Mice (image source: gdmlac.com)
The results from the paper were taken from experiments run on C57BL/6 Mice. For more information on their characteristics, please click the image source link. (image source: gdmlac.com)

Hence, ethically, in relation to fracking chemicals, it is easier to test an experiment out on a mouse, and if there are adverse effects, you can knock on the scientific door that asks if these same harms could affect humans and our agricultural livestock. The study states:

“Oil and natural gas operations have been shown to contaminate surface and ground water with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In the current study, we fill several gaps in our understanding of the potential environmental impacts related to this process.”

In particular, the study:

  • measured the endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations.
  • quantified the concentration of 16 of these chemicals in oil and gas wastewater samples.
  • assessed reproductive and developmental outcomes in male C57BL/6J mice after the prenatal exposure to a mixture of these chemicals.

The study found that 23 of 24 of the oil and gas related chemicals inhibit the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors within the lab mice. For the lab mice, this led to decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum testosterone in male mice. Hence:

23 out of 24 oil and gas related chemicals, when working in concert within their bodies, led to multiple organ system impacts within the lab mice.

Will these results hold true for humans exposed to the same chemicals? Well, the only sure way that we can find out is by running the same experiment on human test subjects. If you thought that laboratory experiments on mice is unethical, then surely you will hold that running laboratory experiments on human test subjects is highly unethical.

What is important to note is that no community should risk exposing local members of their community to the multiple organ system impacts that were found to affect reproductive and biological systems in these lab mice.

It really is for industrial corporations and governments to prove that humans and livestock will not be negatively affected by exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

In other words, the precautionary principle must be applied.

If your community is exposed to these chemicals, and the reproductive abilities of local livestock and humans are negatively affected, then you must ask:

  • What do we do to reverse this within the affected individuals?
  • If we can’t reverse the harm done, then what can we actually do?

Humans are not laboratory mice, and we don’t like getting caught in mouse traps. We should investigate the harmful affects of fracking chemicals further, before committing our communities for future generations to a process that may prove harmful to our human health. For, if these negative effects once experienced, cannot be reversed, then we will find ourselves caught in a trap from which we cannot escape.

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Remember: More research must be done to rove that fracking chemicals are safe to human and agricultural health. Communities must demand that the precautionary principle be applied by fracking companies and governments.

Please leave you comments below. Thank you, FFAN.

Health & HVHF [High Volume Hydraulic Fracking] Feb 2015

FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] is a cross-community network of individual Fermanagh residents. We are not affiliated to any political party or other organisation but work with a broad range of groups and individuals who are concerned about the risks associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction using high volume hydraulic fracking [HVHF].

FFAN strongly believe that you should not do things that have the potential to be very dangerous on a large scale and thus caution MUST be practiced. The Precautionary Principle: when an activity raises the threat of serious or irreversible harm to humans or the environment, then precautionary measures should be taken, even if not all the science of cause and effect have been fully established. These measures can include the decision not to allow certain activities to commence if the risks are deemed too high. Professor Oswald of Cornell University [USA] has described HVHF as ‘an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale’. However the Public Health research is now beginning to come through from areas undergoing HVHF and these findings are very worrying.

FFAN

The proposed development of shale gas extraction in Fermanagh would involve the technique of ‘fracking’. Fracking is more correctly termed High Volume Hydraulic Fracking [HVHF] and has only recently become available to the oil & gas industry, and widespread there only since 2005. HVHF is very different from the traditional fracking which has been used by the industry for the last sixty years to extract conventional oil and gas. The scale and intensity of the new HVHF operations combined with the vastly increased amounts of water required has led some states in the USA and other Countries to, quite appropriately, consider this a new and unproven industry. The volumes of water per frack are usually 80 to 100 times more than used in a traditional frack. As such, this new industry, with its new risks is only recently been studied as to its impacts on human health. Unfortunately many aspects of research is hampered by disclosure orders against both the public involved and the Physicians who attempt to treat and study these patients. Several academic institutions in the USA have been discouraged from carrying out independent research into fracking. Even more alarming, several institutions including the University of Texas have had to withdraw misleading health research after the discovery of researchers’ links to the HVHF industry that had not been disclosed at the time of publication.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health [CMOH] for New Brunswick, Canada commissioned and published a very concerning report in 2012 into Shale Gas Development and its impact on Public Health. This report & its recommendations is available at the website www.gnb.ca Her report raises specific concerns regarding the negative impacts on Public Health relating to the ‘Boomtown effect’. These include increased levels alcohol abuse, illegal drug use and sexually transmitted diseases. These negative factors cause significant burden to local services and communities, where most people experience the down side of HVHF with only a few benefiting from HVHF. Also present is risks to air quality, noise, vibration, continuous illumination and physical hazards due to extensive heavy truck use. Some areas of the USA have seen their MVC [motor vehicle collision] rate increase by 50% since HVHF has arrived. These excess MVCs & fatalities are mostly due to the continuous presence of huge HVHF trucks on country roads, and also an increase incidence of ‘drink driving’.

Reports and studies now emerging include leading articles in the renowned Lancet & British Medical Journal last year. Most of the information below is drawn from the three sources mentioned above plus the CHPNY compendium [2nd Edition released Dec 2014]. CHPNY stands for ‘Concerned Health Professionals of New York State’ and is made up mostly, but not exclusively, of Doctors, Nurses & Medical Academics. Their website is www.concernedhealthny.org This very important compendium is updated every six months and is ‘open access’ to all, both researchers & public.

The very important Public Health review of HVHF was released by the New York State Department of Health also in December 2014. This report was the cornerstone of evidence used by the New York State Commissioner to issue a legally binding statement that prohibits HVHF in that State. This report can be accessed at www.health.ny.gov

Below I have summarised a fraction of points from the 100 page CHPNY compendium which covers 16 major topics relating to HVHF. I have also put in some salient comments from New York State report. What has come out of the research in North America is that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm. This is because some of frackings’ many component parts, which include the subterranean geological landscape itself, are simply not controllable. Add to this scenario human error and also ‘cutting corners’ to save time & money and this boom & bust industry is not safe to be regulated even by our Government agencies.

Air pollution:

Infant mortality rose six times above the normal background rate over three years since the advent of HVHF at Uintah, Utah.

281% increase in Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs are known carcinogens and neurological disruptors] predicted at HVHF area of Eaglesford, Texas.

Research estimates total annual VOC emissions at fracking sites are equivalent to 100 million cars [USA currently has 150M cars on its roads].

Increased risk of congenital heart defects associated with living within ten miles of gas wells.

Dangerous levels of benzene in air around fracking sites; Health Official states ‘The concerns of the Public are validated’.

Decreased birth weight and increased premature birth rate [both predictors of increased risk of life long ill health] associated with women living closer to fracking sites, cause; air pollution.

American Lung Association states air quality in rural areas close to fracking sites now worse than air quality in urban areas.

The Colorado School of Public Health [2012] showed an increased risk of ill health, both cancer & non-cancer, of people living near frack pads.

Parts of Utah, previously with pristine air quality, now has levels of smog and pollution that rival downtown Los Angeles.

Albany University study shows eight highly toxic chemicals in air samples collected near fracking sites across five states. Most common were benzene & formaldehyde; 29 out of 76 samples far exceeded federal health & safety standards. Lead researcher stated ‘Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities [yet]. But in five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen’.

Water Pollution:

What is pumped into the wells at extreme high pressure is called the frack water or ‘frack fluid’. Even if this ‘frac fluid’ contains no added chemicals [a very unlikely scenario] what comes back up in the HVHF ‘flow back’ water poses serious health problems to humans. On average, 50% of the frack fluid returns as flowback water. Thus: thousands of millions of gallons of contaminated water will be present on the surface in the HVHF areas. This flowback will contain varying amounts of benzene [causes leukaemia, cancer and spina bifida], mercury [brain and kidney damage], arsenic [cancers], ethyl benzenes [respiratory disease, fatigue & headaches], toluene [birth defects & central nervous system damage] and volatile organic compounds [disrupts our endocrine system causing, lung, gut and reproductive disease]. There is no proven system in place to store or treat such vast quantities of toxic liquid and its risk to local residents’ health is obvious. No definitive plan or answer to this flowback water problem has yet been given by the HVHF industry to our Government.

HVHF wells have significant leakage/ integrity problems in both the short & long term. Percentage of leaking wells varies from 3-6% [in first two years], up to 50-75% over the lifetime of a well. The earthquakes triggered by fracking damage both the well casing and cement, further increasing well failure rates.

Cornell University study showed that fracking fluid and the flow back water interfere with the ability of soil to bond to and sequester pollutants such as heavy metals. Thus fracking fluids may release from soils an additional repository of contaminants that could migrate into ground water.

Many confirmed cases of drinking water contamination from fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia & Texas, thus casting doubt on Industry view that this rarely or never happens. A Pennsylvania Court found a gas corporation guilty of contaminating a home owner’s drinking water, methane levels were 1,300 to 2,000 times higher than the baseline.

U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] study of groundwater pollution at HVHF site in North Dakota found that an area of 12 square miles was the result of a well casing failure. Another USGS report into fracking states ‘the knowledge of how extraction affects water resources has not kept pace with the technology’.

Oil & Gas operators generally opt for out of court settlements that include ‘non-disclosure’ agreements [gagging clauses]. This strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the media and health researchers and makes it difficult to challenge the claim that fracking has never tainted anyones water.

Investigative Journalists uncover at least 161 cases of water contamination from fracking between 2008-2012 in Pennsylvania.

Colorado State data reveals more than 350 instances of groundwater contamination resulting from more than 2,000 spills from oil & gas operators over five years.

Stanford University researchers document that fracking in shallow layers of bedrock, including those that serve as drinking water aquifers, is not uncommon. This is because the HVHF industry is exempt from the Safe drinking Water Act.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation fined $900,000 in 2011 for improper well casing & cementing that resulted in contamination of 16 private drinking water wells via underground migration of methane.

West Virginia EPA confirmed that three private drinking water wells were contaminated by a fracking company when it mistakenly drilled into its own well, resulting in benzene being detected in the drinking water at four times the legal maximum limit.

Pennsylvania EPA fine drilling company $4,500,000, in 2014, for contaminating groundwater due to leaking frack waste-water pits.

Cuadrilla [UK HVHF company] knew about problems with their well bore integrity but did not report this to the regulators. They also failed to carry out seismic surveys, as recommended, prior to their fracking. That frack triggered two earthquakes and damaged their well casing, increasing the risk of cement failure and thus leakage.

University of Missouri team tested chemicals used in one frack area. Of the 24 fracking chemicals tested, all 24 interfered with one or more hormone receptors in humans. There is no safe level of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

Methane is at least 2,300% [& up to 3,300%] more potent as greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane leakage seriously worsens climate change. The Medical community now has very strong evidence that climate change has a serious negative impact on public health, and this impact will only worsen in the future if we don’t act. Methane leakage rate is averaging at least 8% from HVHF wells, up from 6% five years ago. Even at a 2 or 3% leakage rate methane is still more damaging for climate change over a 20 or 100 year time span than carbon dioxide.

The 2014 Public Health England [PHE] review stated that ‘the health risks [of HVHF] are low’. FFAN has compiled a detailed response to this PHE review [at our website] pointing out many serious shortcomings in the methodology used. UK government ministers are already trying to use the PHE draft review to over-rule legitimate public health concerns yet have only accepted one of the reports ten recommendations.

Professor Watterson [Professor of Public Health in Scotland] stated in relation to the PHE review: ‘There are major questions about how a government committed to a deregulatory and reduced regulatory agenda, along with chopping budgets – and the resulting major job losses in agencies that have oversight of environmental pollution – will be capable of guaranteeing that fracking companies operate safely. Also extraordinary is the [minister’s] unsubstantiated statement that the UK has the most robust regulatory regime for fracking. In other countries the exact chemicals used in fracking have been covered by commercial confidentiality and are not disclosed fully. So how can their risks be fully assessed and cleared for UK use?

HVHF is not the panacea it was hailed as five years ago. Human health is precious, dependent on clean air, clean water and stable communities. Health is very costly to fix once broken. Our true wealth is our health. Our true assets are our clean environment and healthy children. Our future health and economic stability should not be jeopardised by short term gain for a few. The economic cost to the NHS to manage the fallout of HVHF ill health in the Northern Ireland population may far outstrip HVHFs limited economic benefit.

Dr Zucker, Acting Commissioner for Health, presented the New York State Public Health Review on HVHF in Dec 2014. At that presentation he stated “I asked myself ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either”. Let us also have the courage to state clearly & loudly that the people of Fermanagh and neighbouring Counties insist that we too, live in a community free from the threat of fracking.

Dr. Carroll O’Dolan MRCGP [Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners] – FFAN Health spokesperson Feb 2015


PDF: HVHF conference Feb 2014

Powerpoint Presentation: Health & HVHF powerpoint Feb 2015

New York State Department of Health Completes Review of High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing

Acting DOH Commissioner Zucker Recommends Activity Should Not Move Forward in New York State

DEC Commissioner Martens Will Issue a Findings Statement Early Next Year to Prohibit High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing.

ALBANY

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 17, 2014) – The state Department of Health has completed its public health review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and Acting DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that high-volume hydraulic fracturing should not move forward in New York State. Dr. Zucker announced his findings and recommendations today at a Cabinet Meeting in Albany.

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

In 2012, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens asked the DOH Commissioner to conduct a review of the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (SGEIS). Dr. Zucker’s report fulfills that request.

As a result of Dr. Zucker’s report, Commissioner Martens stated at the Cabinet Meeting today that he will issue a legally binding findings statement that will prohibit HVHF in New York State at this time.

“For the past six years, DEC has examined the significant environmental impacts that could result from high-volume hydraulic fracturing,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “DEC’s own review identified dozens of potential significant adverse impacts of HVHF. Further, with the exclusion of sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources and the increasing number of towns that have enacted bans and moratoria, the risks substantially outweigh any potential economic benefits of HVHF. Considering the research, public comments, relevant studies, Dr. Zucker’s report and the enormous record DEC has amassed on this issue, I have directed my staff to complete the final SGEIS. Once that is complete, I will prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State at this time.”

DEC will incorporate the findings of the public health review into the Final SGEIS, which will be released with a response to public comments early next year. A minimum of 10 days later, Commissioner Martens will issue the findings statement prohibiting HVHF. This action will conclude the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for HVHF.

DOH’s review found significant uncertainties about: the adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF; the likelihood of occurrence of adverse health outcomes; and the adequacy of mitigation measures to protect public health. DOH’s report concludes that it will be years until science and research provide sufficient information to determine the level of risk HVHF poses to public health and whether those risks can be adequately mitigated. Given the red flags raised by current studies, absent conclusive studies that disprove health concerns, the report states the activity should not proceed in New York State.

In conducting its public health review, DOH reviewed and evaluated scientific literature, sought input from outside public health experts, engaged in field visits and discussions with health and environmental authorities in nearly all states where HVHF activity is taking place, and communicated with local, state, federal, international, academic, environmental and public health stakeholders. DOH’s review can be found at: http://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf

At the Cabinet meeting, Governor Cuomo thanked the Commissioners and their respective departments for their work.

——————————————————————————————————–

via http://www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2014/2014-12-17_fracking_report.htm

Perspective: living beside a fracking site

The Guardian have recorded a short documentary showcasing a families that live within a mile beside unconventional hydraulic fracturing wells. Their first-hand account of the individuals involve reveal a great sense of insecurity as they were forced to come to terms with sickness, flaring, light pollution, trucks, air and water pollution, explosions, fires mistrust and more.

Veronica Kornvall, as featured in the documentary short
Veronica Kornvall, as featured in the documentary short

To view the informative and eye opening video short, click here.

Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

Medical journal of australia denounces safety of fracking

On March 2014 the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published a report entitled: “Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia’s energy future.”

REDCROSS

In the report the MJA warn of the scientific research already undertaken that highlights the health risks that Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction brings to communities stating:

Fears over the potential health implications of hydraulic fracturing led over 100 medical practitioners to request the Obama administration to halt the construction of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the basis that “[t]here is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale … may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil”. There are also environmental, social and psychological factors that have more indirect effects on health, and important social justice implications arising from the distribution of health burdens.
While there is a dearth of conclusive evidence about the health and environmental effects of fracturing, there is an emerging body of evidence on the areas of greatest potential risk and uncertainty in regards to water, air and social pathways. When taken into consideration along with concerns about the level of fugitive emissions and the potential effect on the development of renewable energy, these health concerns make unconventional gas a doubtful saviour for Australia’s energy needs.

Furthermore, MJA continue by warning that despite attempts to improve the safety of the overall process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the process itself cannot be made safe:

While the risk of well casing failure, spills and other accidents cannot be dismissed,these can be mitigated (though not removed entirely) by proper regulation and the move towards “safer” fracturing fluids. However, although any exposure would likely be to heavily diluted chemicals, the toxicological effects of some chemicals in their dilute form are not well understood. In particular, chemicals affecting the endocrine system — such as ethoxylated 4-nonylphenol, which has been used in Australian operations6 — can affect humans at extremely low quantities.

This sentiment has already been echoed by world respected medical journals the British Medical Journal, and the Lancet.

The MJA also draw attention to an all too often overlooked aspect of the process – air pollution:

Unconventional gas extraction is responsible for air pollution from diesel fumes from infrastructure development and stationary equipment, gas processing, venting and flaring. Fugitive methane emissions can catalyse development of ground level ozone and combine with PM to form smog, both of which contribute to respiratory disease, among other health effects, and damage to crops — gas- field haze is a well known effect in the US, with such pollution capable of travelling substantial distances. Shale gas extraction can also involve the flaring or venting of “associated” gases, which can become hazardous air pollutants.

The report goes further, and highlights negative social impacts that can in turn bring detriment to human health, such as the increased cost of living, high levels of alcohol and drug use, mental health issues and violence.

In a damning condemnation of the social injustices brought about by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the MJA state:

Inequity can be an indirect cause of ill health, and the development of unconventional gas resources threatens to distribute health burdens in an unfair way. Most of the potential health hazards are likely to be felt by groups such as the elderly, children and the poor because of their vulnerability to the hazards involved, those living in rural, agricultural and Indigenous communities because of the location of operations, and future generations — the same groups liable to bear significant costs of climate change — while the financial benefits will accrue to the predominantly foreign owners of the resources.

Before continuing with the real life threat that climate change will bring, a problem that will be exacerbated by methane emissions:

A further health issue raised by any proposed energy source is its contribution to climate change, which has the potential to reverse gains in global health, for example by exacerbating illnesses and causing deaths through undernutrition, extreme weather conditions and disease.

In conclusion, as a result of negative implications both social and environmental the MJA warn against Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction as a means to secure energy for the future of Australia:

It is clear that Australia must quickly move beyond its reliance on coal for health and environmental reasons. However, when taking into consideration the uncertainties over health risks, the unfavourable comparisons with other energy options, the climate risks associated with fugitive emissions, the moral obligations Australia faces as a gas exporter, the potential displacement of renewables and doubts raised over the claim that gas will prove to be a cheap energy option, the scale is firmly tipped against the further development of unconventional gas.

The MJA report has added to a long list of reports which warn against the risks associated with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process which is earmarked for County Fermanagh.

Our citizens must ask themselves, in the face of mounting scientific evidence, that once the process arrives within our county’s borders, how can we expect to avoid the social, environmental and economic costs incurred, knowing that communities world wide have failed to avoid them for themselves.

If you wish to read the MJA report in full, click here.

Ohio fracking fire witnesses ask for greater chemical disclosure

A fire erupted last week on a frack-pad in Ohio State. The accident was finally contained after cross-county support from emergency services, who had to handle the hazardous flaming chemicals, without knowing what they were in the first place. As a result, efforts to put the fire out were hampered by the lack of available knowledge.

The Ohio Citizen reports:

The fire at the Monroe County well site on June 28 spread to 20 nearby trucks on the drilling pad, and required additional firefighters from six counties to contain it. Melissa English, development director with Ohio Citizen Action, says first responders were probably unaware of the chemicals involved in the accident because the only ones listed were ‘condensate and produced water.’

‘There were more chemicals on-site at the time of the fire, because they had started fracking by that time,’ says English. ‘They had started actually stimulating the well to produce oil and gas, which they hadn’t done at the time the hazardous chemical inventory was filed last year.’

To read the press release in full, click here.

Australia: loophole to remove environmental impact study from fracking

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that in Australia, an amendment to existing legislation, which is up for public consultation, will provide a loophole within which unconventional shale gas extraction can take place without a full Environmental Impact Study.

The result of which would allow fracking closer to local residences.

FRACKING

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The government plans to modify the State Environmental Planning Policy in a way that may allow AGL to carry out hydraulic fracturing – usually referred to fracking – close to homes in the Gloucester area of the Hunter region without completing a full environmental impact study.
A similar large-scale drilling project planned for western Sydney was ruled out in 2013, partly as a result of its proximity to homes near Liverpool, Campbelltown and Camden.
Local opponents say fracking of existing wells, or the drilling of new ones nearby, can have unforeseen consequences on aquifers as the 1000-metre deep wells intersect with fault lines.

They say the proposed amendment, open for public comment until July 16, appears specifically designed to enable AGL to do exploratory fracking at four gas wells near family homes without an EIS.
Under existing rules, since the proposed wells are within three kilometres of an existing one, they are deemed a state-significant development requiring an EIS. The rule change, however, will measure the three kilometres from the geometric centre of the new wells, not from the nearest one.
“The absurdity, if this goes ahead, is that you could design a set of wells in such a way that some of the wells you propose to frack could be within just a few metres of existing wells,” said John Watts, a spokesman for Groundswell Gloucester. “It is the closeness of the wells that could cause a problem, not the closeness to the centre point.”
Fracking involves the injection of a mix of sand and chemicals under high pressure to create small fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas to migrate to the well. The closeness of wells to homes in the Camden area was one reason the government curtailed AGL’s CSG plans in south-west Sydney.
“The government considered the amendment to be minor,” a spokesman for Planning Minister Pru Goward said. “The amendment creates certainty for industry and the community” by removing “ambiguous” wording in the policy, he said.

To read the article in full, click here.

Former state health employees forced silent on fracking

It has been reported by news outlet NPR that former Pennsylvania State Health employees were instructed to ignore enquiries from the public in relation to the negative health effects related to unconventional shale gas development.

GAGGED

Staff were instructed, that in the event of a member of the public calling in regards to a shale gas related ailment, the enquiry was to be forwarded to a supervisor who would handle the case from there on in. However, many members of the public would phone bad, annoyed that they had received no follow up.

There is also evidence to suggest that the problem occurs in other states outside of Pennsylvania.

NPR reports:

npr

Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.

One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years.

Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that.

Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting.

In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”

Companies have drilled more than 6,000 wells into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing state for natural gas production in America.

Amid the record-breaking development, public health advocates have expressed concern that Pennsylvania has not funded research to examine the potential health impacts of the shale boom.

Doctors have said that some people who live near natural gas development sites – including well pads and compressor stations – have suffered from skin rashes, nausea, nosebleeds and other ailments.

To read the investigative report in full, click here.

Texas: $3 million fracking lawsuit upheld

Previously, we had reported upon the landmark 2014 fracking lawsuit in Texas, whereby the Parr family were awarded $3 million damages against Aruba Energy, for environmental pollution of the air, water and soils from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction activities (UGEE) that proved to have detrimental impacts on the quality of the family’s health.

Parr

Since then, Aruba Energy appealed the decision. The appeal was rejected on June 19th 2014 by Judge Mark Greenberg, thereby upholding the law in favour of the Parr family.

In the original lawsuit filed, the Parr family had complained of nuisance problems that were caused by unconventional shale gas extraction operations including but not limited to: open sores around he eyes, nose and rest of body, permanent scarring, chronic nose bleeds, migranes, drowsiness, irregular heart beat, depression, ataxia, abdominal pains, arrhythmia, and anisocoria.

The Parr family is not the first family to bring an energy company to court over damages caused by unconventional shale gas extraction, however they are the first family to succeed in acquiring damages from an energy company in front of a court of law.