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Environmental Health

Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a natural gas extraction process with severe negative consequences for human health and the climate. Fracking for natural gas extraction creates potentially harmful health effects during the hydraulic fracturing technique itself, and from associated processes including road building, pad clearing, truck trips, drilling, cementing, flowback waters, off-gassing, compressors, and pipelines.

Among the most serious sources of concern are:

  • Toxic drilling fluids and fracturing fluids, injected deep underground and then withdrawn, may contaminate underground aquifers and surface waters.

  • Air emissions including volatile organic compounds (VOCs)threaten human health, especially of workers and residents of the immediate vicinity.

  • Diesel pollution and noise pollution can be constant, as truck traffic is intensive and fracking continues 24-7.

  • Stress factors associated with boom-town growth affect the quality of life in communities where drilling occurs.

  • Methane leaks accelerate climate change. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, and methane is 86 times more potent at capturing heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The EPA has released standards to reduce leaks of methane and VOCs from new (to-be-built) oil and gas wells and infrastructure. PSR applauds these new rules; they are a welcome next step in addressing the grave problems associated with fracking. At the same time, they are only a first step. PSR also calls on the EPA to set standards to address the leakage happening now from existing oil and gas wells and infrastructure. Ultimately, natural gas and other fossil fuels must be left in the ground, to be replaced by cleaner renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy.

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Americans are generating more plastic trash than ever.  More than 1,000,000 plastic bottles are sold each day and in the United States, only about 23% of those bottles are recycled. Of all the single-use plastics bought annually 32% - about 25 million tons - winds up our oceans which is the same as pouring a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This rate is expected to increase to 2 trucks per minute by 2030. This is just a snapshot of the issue.

The lifecycle of plastics begins with the extraction of fossil fuels which results in excess rock and soil being dumped into adjacent streams and valleys.  Unconventional extraction methods such as natural gas hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ leads to methane and toxic aerosol emissions, resource depletion, and harmful wastewater contamination.


After extraction, the raw material is shipped to a cracking plant where ethane and propane are broken down into ethylene and propylene.  Ethylene and Propylene are then processed in different ways with chemical additives to make pre-production plastic pellets called ‘nurdles.’  The plastic nurdles are then molded into the different plastic products we use – from plastic shopping bags to children’s action figures.

Besides the environmental impacts of pollution from plastic production, plastics are forever. When plastics are thrown into landfills it photo-degrades breaking down into smaller plastic bits.  Microplastics (anything smaller than five millimeters in length) also come from microbeads which are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, cleansers and toothpastes.  These microplastics end up in in our they end up in our drinking water, in our foods and in our air.  These micro and nano-plastics once in the body enter the circulatory system and accumulates in our organs.

Big win for Pennsylvania!


Cities like Philadelphia can now begin implementing a plastic bag ban. When the Republican-controlled legislature passed the recent state budget, it didn’t renew a statewide preemption on single-use plastics, opening the door for cities and municipalities to approve new prohibitions or enforce existing bans. 


Want to start a plastic bag ban in your community? Write to local businesses you support. Find a sample letter here.

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