Cumberland Times-News

February 20, 2014

Panel not serious about task of assessing risks from fracking

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— I heard on the radio this morning (Feb. 20) that the fire at the Greene County, Pa., fracking well that exploded a week ago is still not completely under control.

Caused by an “unexpected gas release,” it took several days to find the remains of a man killed in the explosion, and any release of fracking chemicals into the environment has not been addressed.

In compensation, the gas company distributed coupons for free pizza to area households. One per family.

In Maryland, a Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, including our own Sen. George Edwards, was formed to, among other things, determine if fracking “can be accomplished without unacceptable risks of adverse impacts to public health”.

Complaints that the commission had become a committee to rubber stamp fracking has prompted a denial by Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers in an open letter.

But as a physician living in Garrett County, I have seen little to convince me of the commission’s seriousness in assessing the public health risk.

We should learn from this and other fracking related problems in Pennsylvania, where physicians have had to take gas companies to court to try and find out what it is in the secret chemical slurries sickening their patients.

We should ask why, according to a recent Duke University study, Washington County, Pa., homes near fracking wells have lost an average of 13 percent of their property values.

Pennsylvania homes valued at over $100,000 have sold for between $15,000 and $30,000 after losing their wells. Banks have refused to refinance mortgages for homes on fracking fields, and it’s been reported that some banks won’t make new mortgage loans for properties with gas leases.

Of course if there is a problem, you might get a pizza.

Mike Weddle, MD

Lonaconing