Environmental organizations in Pennsylvania today called for a full investigation into actions by the state Department of Health around natural gas drilling complaints. The request is on the heels of the revelation that the health department circulated a list of “buzzwords” to the department’s employees with the admonition that calls with drilling-related complaints not be returned. The list of flagged words includes “skin rash,” “hair falling out,” “drilling,” “fracking,” and “Marcellus Shale.” This past weekend, the Associated Press reported that Governor Tom Corbett’s former top health official said the state has failed to seriously study the potential health impacts of gas drilling activity.
The organizations are calling for a full independent and transparent investigation into the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s response to drilling complaints. The legitimate questions of Pennsylvania citizens concerning their health or that of family members as a result of natural gas drilling activity cannot be discounted or dismissed outright. The fact that the department originally denied the existence of a “buzzwords” list, and the fact that Governor Corbett has refused to weigh in with a forceful response, leaves the organizations no choice but to call for a full investigation. The organizations in question are also asking the department to make available to the public all past and future health complaints, and to commit to addressing all future complaints in a timely manner.
This entire episode begs the question: Is the Corbett administration more concerned with protecting the natural gas industry than it is the health and welfare of Pennsylvania families and future generations? There should not be one set of rules for the gas industry and another set for everyone else. If there is any question that the actions of drillers are causing harm to our air, water and land as well as the health of our citizens, the governor and state agencies must address those concerns immediately. Governor Corbett needs to show leadership on this issue of great public concern, not delay and deny.
The above statement was affirmed by the following:
- Cindy Dunn, president and CEO, PennFuture
- Adam Garber, field director, PennEnvironment
- Steve Hzovdovich, Marcellus Shale coordinator, Clean Water Action-Pennsylvania
- Joanne Kilgour, director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter
- Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., executive director, Clean Air Council
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