Lives before energy

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At least 450,216 natural gas wells blanket our nation — and 52,700 lie in Pennsylvania.

With promises to boost our economy and offer energy independence for the nation, natural gas seems like a dream come true.

But studies show that the chemicals involved in hydraulic fracturing may be detrimental to the public.

At each of the wells, fracking fluid — composed of numerous chemicals — blasts through the ground. According to a research team, led by world-renowned scientist Theo Colburn, 75 percent of these chemicals “can affect the skin, eyes and sensory organs, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system and the liver” and over half of them affect the brain and nervous system.

Many rural families get their water from wells under the same earth where hydraulic fracturing takes place. A separate research team, led by Lisa M. McKenzie, concluded that residents within 1.5 miles of gas wells had large exposure to fracking chemicals and higher cancer and non-cancer risks “compared to residents residing further” from the wells.

Yet state and federal government officials still allow the industry to drive these chemicals into the ground.

Without the use of such chemicals the extraction process would cost more than the gas itself. Eliminating natural gas drilling is not in the government’s best interest, but given the hazards, federal and state administrations should strictly monitor operations to protect public health.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the gas companies need to be careful. People’s lives rest in their hands. Drillers need to be cautious. The federal government should step in so that state acts, like Pennsylvania’s Act 13, don’t help the oil and gas industry at the cost of human lives. Federal regulations also should be implemented to make sure the industry cannot withhold information, to ensure fracking fluid can’t reach water sources and possibly to prohibit natural gas drilling in populated areas.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, natural gas can deliver great things to our country like cheaper, more efficient power and the energy independence the United States longs for. But we have to ask ourselves: At what point did energy become more important than human life?


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