by Marie DeMarco, MPH
The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for shielding communities and the environment from significant health risks and to enforce environmental regulations for the benefit of public health. The harmful effects fracking has on the environment is detrimental to communities and public health.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working to issue a final methane rule, otherwise known as the Clean Air Act. The implementation of a final methane rule by the end of 2022 will reduce methane emissions across the United States, not only in Pennsylvania. The act will urge fracking sites to put in place technology that identifies methane leaks, and require that leaks be repaired at least once every three months reducing the amount of environmental pollutants that are present in the atmosphere. These strict guidelines will protect those that are directly impacted by these emissions. Oil and Gas workers, children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals are at highest risk to develop preventable disease because of these harmful methane emissions. Toxic pollutants released alongside methane, such as benzene, can worsen asthma and other respiratory diseases; increase rates of infertility, heart failure, and risks of cancer; cause immune system damage; and even cause developmental problems in children. The finalization of this rule is so important because this rule impacts the overall health of thousands of communities across the United States.
The map below illustrates the prevalence of asthma in Pennsylvania obtained by the PA Department of Health.
The map below illustrates the prevalence of oil and gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania obtained by FracTracker Alliance.
As Concerned Health Professionals who care about the environment and the health of our communities, we must advocate for the implementation of the final methane rule as soon as possible to reduce the prevalence of health disparities caused by methane emissions among communities that have oil and gas drilling. As each day goes by without these critical protections in place, emissions at oil and gas sites continue to jeopardize the health and safety of workers and those living closest to development.