When the PACWA (Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air) “List of the Harmed” (compiled by Jenny Lisak) first came out on May 10, 2012 at my farm, I wrote about it – but it bears writing about again. Jenny long ago separated the list into a comprehensive one of people, animals and environment harmed by fracking across the United States and one showing the Pennsylvania cases only. I want to give a shout-out again to that list so it continues to get wide circulation. I think every candidate for governor should respond to what is on this list. Do they think, as the gas industry says, that the list is nothing but “anecdotes proving nothing”? Here is the link to the latest version of the list for PA: http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-listpennsylvania/
I’d also like to post again the introduction I did for this list on that day when I declared my farm to be off-limits to and “forever inviolate of” shale gas drilling. My anger about how people who get hurt by fracking just “disappear” from the news and get steam-rolled by the gas industry has not abated one bit since May 2012. “The disappeared ones” (some will recognize the term from repressive regimes in Chile and Argentina that killed their opposition in secret) are among us here in PA, their suffering officially “disappeared” by the press and governmental authorities and courts.
Here’s what I wrote about that on May 10, 2012 when the cases on the list numbered just over 100 across the country. Jenny documents 333 cases in PA alone as of today. Incredibly, now documenting all stories related to fracking for and transporting fracked oil and gas, the general list is approaching 5,000 people affected. Say what they may, this goes far beyond anecdotes. Yet each of these incidents gets enough ink to show up on the list, but the people and their harms are set aside as though acceptable collateral damage. So here again are my comments from May 10, 2012:
The Harmed, the Sickened, the Dead and the Disappeared
Accounts of the impacts of shale gas drilling on people and animals
Compiled by J. Lisak of Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air
Introduction by Stephen Cleghorn
May 10, 2012
This is a compilation of well over a hundred cases that have appeared in the press about people and animals living in gas fields who have become sick and even died from exposure to air and water contamination associated with gas field facilities. More than half of these cases, by number of people affected, are from the Pennsylvania gas fields above the Marcellus Shale.
These cases have been assembled by citizen activists who are part of a small grassroots organization, with no resources other than their computers and thousands of hours of volunteer time trying to find what they can about the impacts and risks of “high volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing of long lateral well bores from multi-well pads” to extract methane and other hydrocarbons from tight shale formations (an entire process above and below ground that the public has come to know simply as “fracking.”)
These citizens are paying attention. They are seeing the stories reported here and many others not reported here as evidence of grave harm to the environment, humans and animals. However, these stories come and go in the press. Only a very few attract extended follow-up investigation from the media. If the story is too damaging to the gas industry, the PR apparatus rises up and acts to destroy the credibility of people who are reporting that they are sick or their water has gone bad. The gas industry says “you cannot prove that we caused this,” and the people affected say, “My water and health was fine, my animals were fine, before the drilling came, but now they are ruined.” That is called “both sides of the story.”
After the “he said/she said” moment has passed, after the richly endowed gas industry PR machine has done its work of sowing doubt and confusion, after people have been silenced by nondisclosure agreements from ever speaking of their problems again, after officials responsible for looking into these matters say they cannot say for sure what made people’s water go bad or made them sick, then the press moves on.
They leave behind the people living with “water buffalos” – if they are lucky – to have some clean water. They leave behind farms ruined, livestock buried and composted. They leave behind and forget about the ones whose health is ruined. Some people move out of the gas fields for the safety of themselves and their families. Some have become so depressed that suicide was their way out.
These are Pennsylvania’s new “disappeared ones.” Until there is a serious, ongoing, peer-reviewed scientific study of cause-and-effect, the industry can cry “All anecdotes!” The press will say, case by case, “End of story.” But there will be no such study in Pennsylvania because legislators refuse even to fund a health registry to collect the data. The new Pennsylvania law known as Act 13 prohibits doctors from sharing with other doctors at professional conferences what they find out in treating people sickened by exposure to drilling chemicals. There can be no gathering of essential public health and veterinary health information because the power of the gas industry over state legislators prohibits it.
These are the “disappeared” people and stories from the gas fields of Pennsylvania and other gas “fracking” fields of America. Attention must be paid to them.