Tuesday, November 14, 2023

State Dept. Of Health Pushing For Changes To Reduce Adverse Health Impacts From Natural Gas Development

On November 14, Kristen Rodack, Executive Deputy Secretary at the Department of Health said her agency is using the results of
recent studies of health impacts of natural gas development to push “governments and other folks to take action on some of the potential exposures that’s happening from the industry.”

Her remarks were made at the League of Women Voters Shale Gas and Public Health Conference hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health on November 14.

In August, the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health released three studies of health impacts of natural gas development in Southwest Pennsylvania which found shale gas wells make asthma worse, children have an increased chance of developing lymphoma cancer and cause slightly lower birth weights.  Read more here.

“I think these studies really help advance our understanding of the potential health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and they really add to a growing body of research in this space,” said Rodack. “The results were not necessarily surprising to folks who pay attention to this type of work. 

“I think they were consistent with a lot of the research that has happened in this space and really just add to the push to governments and other folks to take action on some of the potential exposures that's happening from the industry.”

“[We] understand that we're playing the long game here and there's a continued need for the Department of Health to continue to raise these issues in all of our spaces that we sit at,” said Rodack.

“A lot of our focus is on education for healthcare providers and also making sure that residents understand where to reach out to us, how to get help from the Department, and making sure that we're working across agencies, with good collaboration with our sister agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and others,” explained Rodack.

Health Care Worker Education

“One thing that we did start in October is an educational opportunity for local healthcare providers,” said Rodack.  “One of the goals of that work is to make sure that local healthcare providers understand what questions to be asking of their patients and making connections between symptoms that folks are experiencing and the environment in which they live.”

Reduce Asthma Risks At Schools Near Gas Facilities

“We're also working with our sister agencies and stakeholders to educate school districts, particularly school districts that are close to [the gas] industry, on the asthma risks for children,” said Rodack.  

“[We are ]working with our internal asthma-prevention program, but also with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to make sure that school districts understand the risk for asthma and any potential mitigation that school districts can play in terms of where to have recess, if they have recess outside versus inside, and things like that,” she explained.

How To Get Help On Gas Related Health Issues

“The other big piece we wanted to make sure that we addressed in response to the studies is making sure that residents have an understanding of how they reach the Department of Health to relay their health concerns,” said Rodack.  

“So we do have an environmental-health epidemiology team that works with residents that can do surveys with residents to understand what's going on with them and try to offer resources and recommendations for how to help them with any health impacts that they're experiencing,” she said.

“We have added a new feature to our website that helps streamline those requests that come in. 

“We're also working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who receive thousands and thousands of environmental-health complaints, to make sure that those get to our team, who can handle the health side of those complaints.”

Click Here to file a health complaint with the Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology.

New Health Literature Review

“We are conducting a new review of the literature in this space, so taking another look and being able to complete a literature review of, like I said, the growing body of research in this space, and then being able to provide those updates to healthcare providers and the public,” said Rodack.

Continue Cancer Monitoring

             “And we will also continue to monitor cancer incidents with an intention to environmental exposures in this region,” she added.

Responding To Gas Facility Emergencies

In response to a question about what the Department of Health is doing to urge counties to include natural gas facilities like pipelines, compressor stations, pipeline pigging operations, natural gas processing plants and other gas infrastructure in county emergency mitigation plans, Rodack said--

“We do have our Bureau of Emergency Health Preparedness in the Department of Health, and they work very closely with PEMA [PA Emergency Management Agency] and DEP. 

“And we are actively reaching out to those folks to talk about how we ensure that county emergency management plans include the industry and any potential impacts in terms of evacuation or things like that, that residents would need to know about. 

“So those conversations are going to be starting, and we thank residents for bringing that to our attention.”


“I would not be here [at the Conference] if it wasn't for the community members who really continued to advocate for their families and for their health and for someone to pay attention to what's happening to them in their communities.”

“We acknowledge that there's certainly more work that needs to be done, but we are committed, at the Department of Health, to continuing to listen to the community members, to hearing and understanding what they experience, and also being the voice of public health in the Commonwealth and trying to push for additional change,” said Rodack.

Visit Health’s Oil and Natural Gas Production Health Concerns webpage for more information.  Questions should be directed to: env.health.concern@pa.gov or call 717-787-3350.

Related Articles - Oil & Gas Health Studies:

-- University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Studies Find Shale Gas Wells Can Make Asthma Worse; Children Have An Increased Chance Of Developing Lymphoma Cancer; Slightly Lower Birth Weights [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Apologizes For Not Listening To Communities Suffering Health Impacts From Shale Gas Development; New Health Study Results ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’ [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project Finds Results ‘Very Concerning’ From University Of Pittsburgh Studies Showing Links Between Natural Gas Development And Lymphoma Cancer, Worsening Asthma Conditions, Lower Birth Weights [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Invites Citizens To File Environmental Health Complaints Related To Natural Gas Development; Health Will Also Review Environmental Test Results [PaEN]

-- Between The Lines Podcast: Pediatrician Dr. Ned Ketyer Explains The Results Of New Studies Of The Health Impacts Of Natural Gas Development On Children And Adults [PaEN]

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Who Pays For Natural Gas Development’s Harm? Pennsylvania Should Acknowledge The Clear Fact That Fracking Has Hurt People, Specifically Children [PaEN]

-- Physicians For Social Responsibility Release 8th Compendium of Scientific, Medical, Media Findings On Risks, Harms Of Fracking And Oil & Gas Infrastructure  [PaEN]

Special 2023 Oil & Gas Compliance Reports:

-- DEP Issued At Least 472 Violations To 90 Conventional Oil & Gas Operators; 20 NOVs To 10 Shale Gas Operators For Abandoning Their Wells Without Plugging Them So Far In 2023  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Record 5,653 Notices Of Violation To Conventional Oil & Gas Operators So Far In 2023; ‘Culture Of Non-Compliance’ Continues  [PaEN] 

-- Shale Gas Operators On Track To Have More Violations In 2023 - Frozen Gas Infrastructure; Explosion; Pad Fire; Uncontrolled Gas Venting; Frack Outs; Major Spills;  Pipeline Crashing Thru A Home Highlight 2023 So Far  [PaEN] 

Weekly PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 11 to 17 -- 37 Conventional Abandoned Wells; 1,260+ Shale Gas Spill; 1,000 Gallon Conventional Oil Spill In State Park; Rager Mtn Gas Storage Still Not Cleaned Up  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - November 18 [PaEN]

-- DEP Invites Comments On Renewal Of Danco Industries Petroleum Contaminated Wastewater Treatment Facility In Venango County  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 66 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In November 18 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- State Dept. Of Health Pushing For Changes To Reduce Adverse Health Impacts From Natural Gas Development  [PaEN] 

-- Beaver County Residents Call For Accountability, Emergency Preparedness After Dozens Of Malfunctions, Pollution From Shell Petrochemical Plant  [PaEN] 

-- PUC Alert: Dec. 1 Utility Prices Are Changing - Natural Gas (+149% to -64.2%); Electric (+18.8% to -25.7%)  [PaEN] 

-- PUC Winter Natural Gas Reliability Overview Reports Now Available; But Do Not Address Winter Storm Elliot Issues  [PaEN]

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Winter Storm Elliot’s Natural Gas Infrastructure Failures Not An Isolated Event; Report Says Electric Grid Still Vulnerable: ‘Winter Is Coming’

-- Utility Dive: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Investigating Possible Winter Storm Elliott Market Manipulation By Natural Gas Pipelines, Power Plants, Marketers

NewsClips This Week:

-- Observer-Reporter Editorial: Is Shapiro’s Voluntary Agreement With CNX The Right Move For Gas Well Safety?  ‘We Do Not Trust Foxes To Guard Henhouses’ 

-- Warren Times Editorial: Right Partnership On Gas Wells?  ‘We Do Not Trust Foxes To Guard Henhouses’ [Shapiro-CNX Statement of Mutual Interests]

-- Spotlight PA - Lilly Riddle: Companies Behind Mariner East II Pipeline Paid $42 Million In Pollution Fines To Pennsylvania

-- Spotlight PA: Did Mariner East Pipeline Construction Affect Your Water?  Contact Spotlight PA

-- EnergyPortal.eu: Mariner East Pipeline Penalties Could Set Precedent For Environmental Enforcement; Attorney General’s Office Cited For Lack Of Transparency On Remediation Efforts

-- TribLive: Westmoreland Water Authority Warns Of Mandatory Water Restrictions As Dry Autumn Persists, Beaver Run Reservoir Continues To Fall [Shale Gas Drillers Withdrawn Water From The Reservoir For Fracking] 

-- TribLive: Westmoreland Water Authority Halts Fracking Water Withdrawals By CNX, Olympus Energy At Beaver Run Reservoir As Part Of Water Conservation Plan [Shale Gas Operators Took 301 Million Gallons From Reservoir This Year]

-- Williamsport Sun: Fracking Wastewater Spills At Eureka Resources Facility In Williamsport 

-- PA Capital-Star: PA’s Natural Gas Development Is Hurting Its Oldest Residents

-- Spotlight PA: PA Leads The Nation For Lyme Disease Cases; Oil & Gas Development, Fragmentation In Forests Boosts The Risk 

-- TribLive: PA Leads Nation In Lyme Disease Cases, Oil & Gas Development, Other Forest Fragmentation Boosting The Risk

-- Williamsport Sun: PA Leads The Nation For Lyme Disease Cases; Oil & Gas Development, Fragmentation In Forests Boosts The Risk 

-- Beaver County Residents Call For Accountability, Emergency Preparedness After Dozens Of Malfunctions, Pollution From Shell Petrochemical Plant  [PaEN]

-- TribLive: Invenergy Scraps Plan For Natural Gas-Fired Power Plant In Allegheny County

-- The Allegheny Front: EPA Finds Spills, Leaks, Heavy Metals At MAX Environmental Landfill In Westmoreland County [75% Of Waste Comes From Shale Gas Industry ]

-- Williamsport Sun: Fracking Wastewater Spills At Eureka Resources Facility In Williamsport

-- Williamsport Sun Letter: Fracking Falsehood Spread By Sen. Yaw, Others - By Dean Marshall, Lock Haven

-- WHYY: Amtrak Backs Off Plan To Install Natural Gas Boilers At 30th Street Station In Philadelphia, Crediting New Climate Goals 

-- Hydrogen Insight: Plug Power Share Price Plunges 40% After Firm Admits It Could Fold In Next 12 Months [Key Player In Western PA Hydrogen Hub] 

-- New York State: Massive Southern Tier Gas Drilling Spree Proposed - 6,500 Land Leases Sought For Plan To Extract Shale Gas, Store Carbon Dioxide

-- New York State: NY DEC, State Legislators Muted On Massive Plan To Extract Natural Gas, Store Carbon Dioxide In Southern Tier; But Green Groups Outraged

-- TribLive/AP: Ohio Commission Approves Natural Gas Drilling In State Parks, Wildlife Areas Despite Fraud Investigation

-- Financial Times: New EU Rules On Methane Leaks To Hit Oil And Gas Importers

-- Reuters: EU Agrees To Law To Hit Fossil Fuel, LNG Natural Gas Imports With Methane Emissions Limits 

-- Bloomberg: EU Sets New Rules On LNG Natural Gas Imports - Production, Transportation

-- Bloomberg: Oil Majors’ Carbon Capture Plans Dubbed A ‘Dangerous Delusion’

[Posted: November 15, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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