New Rules! PA’s Top Docs Weigh In

PA Department of Health Makes Recommendations to Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee

As the July 22nd deadline approaches, several statewide constituencies are weighing in with their recommendations for the regulation of industrial shale gas drilling development in Pennsylvania and amending the state’s Oil & Gas Act (1984). Some of our best minds have been noodling the limited data available, striving to solve the perplexing dilemma of how to Do Gas Right. Perhaps Senator Bob Casey expresses the importance of this best when he says, “We have to.” As early as this summer, the public could see new legislation emerging from Harrisburg on this particularly hot hot-button issue. Last week, the PA Department of Health presented the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission with their recommendations. The most important one: a requirement that the Department of Health routinely evaluate and assess environmental data to determine if there are any health impacts from drilling operations.“With the increased development of the Marcellus Shale play, the Department of Health has witnessed growing concerns among the public, the media and researchers about contamination of water and air from drilling operations and waste disposal,” said Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila. “As the agency in charge of monitoring the health status of those residing in the Commonwealth, the Department is expected to address these public health concerns and to assure residents of impacted areas that their health is not being adversely affected.”  

The Health Department’s recommendations include:

  • Establishing a system to provide for a timely and thorough investigation of and response to concerns/ complaints raised by citizens, health care providers or public officials;
  • The Department should be routinely evaluating and assessing environmental data collected regarding Marcellus Shale-related activities. The data may involve air sampling, water testing (public and private), solid waste testing, fish and other food testing and possibly other types of sampling. The data must be properly evaluated based on levels and likely exposure pathways;
  • The Department should be collecting and evaluating clinical data provided by health care providers;
  • The Department should be educating providers on the presentation and assessment of human illness that may be caused by material in drilling constituents (both the acute and chronic effects);
  • The Department should be educating the public on the constituents used in the drilling process and whether or not they have the potential to cause human illness; and
  • The Department should either create or oversee the creation of a population-based health registry with the purpose of characterizing and following over time individuals who live in close proximity to a drilling site, e.g. within a one-mile radius, or are occupationally exposed.

A copy of the Health Department recommendations are available online at Google Documents. The full Commission meets again on June 17. The Commission must complete its work by July 22.

SOURCE: David E. Hess, PA Environment Digest, June 1, 2011

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