Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Fracking Health Spin

A provision in Act 13 requires medical professions to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order for a Natural Gas corporation to release information about the chemicals used in fracking.   This has raised all sorts of alarm bells throughout the health community.

Both the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health and the Pennsylvania Medical Society have issued statements that doctors will be able to share that information with their patients and public health officials. But a health law expert says the language is too vague.

The Natural Gas corporations have long fought calls for disclosing exactly what is in the fracking cocktails.   They have hidden behind claims of the fracking recipe of being proprietary.   True, there is a "frack chemical" registry, but it's voluntary, and it's completeness is unknown.

One of the talking points frequently trotted out by industry spokespersons is the fracking cocktail is not all that different than what is under your kitchen sink.   Have you ever read the ingredient and warning labels on those products?  A quick peek at what's under my kitchen sink revealed warnings against "internal ingestion", and several are helpful in providing a poison hotline telephone number. 

When was the last time you added a couple of teaspoons of Comet to your morning coffee?  Or sprayed Pledge on a baking sheet before making cookies?  Steaming cauliflower in Fantastic does not improve it's flavor.

Whether it's medical testing or water testing, you need to know what chemicals may be present.   There is no one-test-fits-all procedure.

The other problem with requiring doctors to obtain the frack cocktail recipe is each driller may use a different recipe and different recipes may be used in each well by a driller.   All frack chemicals are not created equal.  This means for a doctor to properly treat each patient suspected of chemical contamination, he or she would need to contact a driller every time, and can not rely on previous chemical disclosures.

The patient would need to know who the drillers are in their area, and which wells are nearby.  And how large of a radius do you go?  One mile? Two?   Anecdotal information has hinted at fracking chemical effecting people as far as 9 miles away from their home. 

Furthermore, patients may not have been exposed the chemicals at their home.  It could be while vacationing in a gasland area, or staying at a friend's home, or even at their workplace where an entirely different driller is fracking.   Is it reasonable to expect a person to keep a fracking drill journal and noting where they have been, the driller's company and which wellpad is nearby?

The ridiculousness of the non-disclosure agreement is beyond the pale.   It's provision is not to protect people, it's not to aide the medical community, it's there to protect the Natural Gas Industry from liability.

"Scarnati Aide Says Drilling Foes Hijack Act 13 Doctor Provision"

Drew Crompton is an aide to Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati and helped craft the bill. Crompton says those who are raising questions about the law have an anti-drilling bias and are using it to further their agenda.

“Not to discredt those who are sincerely looking out for the well being of others,” said Crompton, “but I think they’re making a mountain out of a molehill. These allegations are coming from people who don’t appreciate the industry and want to voice their opinion against it.”

Crompton says no lawmakers, whether Democrats or Republicans, raised any issues about the provisions while it was getting debated in Harrisburg. He says the intent of the law is to protect patients, not the industry.

Several public health officials have raised questions about why no one from their field of expertise was at the table while the law was being drafted. But Crompton says everything was vetted through the state’s Department of Public Health.

“No one with a medical degree was at the table, that’s true,” said Crompton. “But to somehow think that this language wasn’t getting vetted through public health officials, I think is mistaken.

Public health officials raised the question of why no one from the health field was at the table. 

Crompton said everything was vetted through the Department of Public Health.  Vetted or rubber stamped? 

"No one with a medical degree was at the table".    If no one with a medical degree was at the table, then how were medical concerns properly considered?  Oh yeah, it was "vetted".


Originally, state lawmakers had alotted $2 million from the proposed Marcellus Shale impact fee last year for a health registry. But that money was cut from the bill before it came to a vote. The impact fee passed, without money for a health registry.

Republican State Senator Joe Scarnati, who steered the bill to passage in February, said he was “not a fan” of the registry. Instead, he favored giving money for water testing by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Drew Crompton, Scarnati’s chief of staff, called a shale health registry potentially “inflammatory and unnecessary.”

Crompton said “there was a lot of uneasiness” among Republican legislators about the public health study “being all spelled out” in the legislation.

“It’s very sensitive when talking about peoples’ health. What types of studies were they going to do? We didn’t want additional burdens placed on our constituents,” said Crompton. 

“This has to be very slowly developed. We think Marcellus shale drilling is almost entirely safe,” he said. “We don’t want to stir up any fears.”

Crompton said a public health registry “has to be carefully messaged” because of what he characterized as misinformation about the safety of hydraulic fracturing. “The last thing we need is to propel this (mis)information.” he said.

1. Crompton said “there was a lot of uneasiness” among Republican legislators....   Uneasiness?  Are Republican legislators uneasy about what a health registry may reveal, how it would impact the Natural Gas industry and trickle down to impacting campaign contributions?   Who are these legislators really looking out for?   It's not the health of Pennsylvanians.

2. "We THINK Marcellus shale drilling is ALMOST entirely safe.   Think? Almost?  That doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the fracking technology.

3. ...public health registry “has to be carefully messaged”.  So no health registry because the natural gas industry and supporters are having trouble figuring out how to spin it?


  1. Thank you, Dory! Much of what you have said has gone through my mind, especially the part about the chemicals under my sink toutings. Sharing this one, for sure!

  2. Awesome job Dory! You hit the nail on the head and are a big help exposing the lies!!