141st APHA Annual Meeting

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Social costs of fracking: A case study of Pennsylvania

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:30 PM - 2:50 PM

Alison Grass, MURP , Water Program, Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a process used by the oil and gas industry to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock formations. A combination of sand, toxic chemicals and large quantities of water are injected underground at high pressure to crack the rock and release the oil and gas.

In 2005, the first Marcellus Shale production well was drilled and fracked in Pennsylvania. Since then drilling activity has grown exponentially across the state, with the number of new wells drilled per year increasing from 8 in 2005 to 1,972 in 2011—a 24,550 percent increase in new wells over six years.

As drilling activity increases across Pennsylvania, so have reports of water contamination, air pollution, health problems, and impacts upon local industries that depend on healthy ecosystems and natural resources. Despite accounts from those affected, there is limited research explaining the degree to which this industry impacts public health and the quality of life.

This study obtained and analyzed primary data from state governmental agencies to determine the effects that intensive drilling and fracking has on public health and the quality of life in Pennsylvania communities.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for oil and gas development and provide a brief history of fracking in Pennsylvania. Evaluate and use primary data obtained from Pennsylvania state agencies and conduct a trend analysis to identify social costs and determine whether externalities from fracking and shale gas development have negatively impacted public health and quality of life. Compare trends observed in Pennsylvania counties with hydraulic fracturing to counties without hydraulic fracturing and to the state average.

Keywords: Quality of Life, Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Alison Grass is a researcher for the water program. She has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree, specialized in Environmental Planning, from Alabama A&M University. Her environmental planning research niche is water sustainability and rainwater harvesting and she has conducted research on regional and municipal development planning policies. Alison also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with dual minors in Philosophy and Communication Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.