No Area Safe From Fracking

  by Walter Brasch At the time New Jersey established a ban on fracking, it seemed symbolic, much like the moratorium in Vermont, which has no economically recoverable natural gas; the Marcellus Shale, primarily in New York and Pennsylvania, doesn’t extend into New Jersey. New York has a moratorium on fracking until a health impact statement is completed. Pennsylvania. rushing to compete with groundhogs in digging up the state, has no such moratorium. Nor does the state have any plans to conduct extensive research into the health effects of fracking—Gov. Tom Corbett, the gas industry’s cheerleader, cut $2 million from the Department of Health to provide for a public health analysis. As it is, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exercised … Continue reading

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

José Lara just wanted a job. A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks. Clean off the debris. Make them shining again. And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co. “The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish. The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields. José Lara did his job until he no longer could work. At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer. Accidents, injuries, and … Continue reading

Pennsylvania Politics Continues to Trump Health and the Environment

    by WALTER BRASCH   Politics continues to threaten the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians. The latest is how the Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett separated one of the wealthiest and more high-tech/industrial areas of the state from the rural areas. Less than a week before the 2011–2012 fiscal year budget was scheduled to expire, June 30, the majority party slipped an amendment into the 2012–2013 proposed budget, (SB1263), to ban natural gas drilling in a portion of southeastern Pennsylvania for up to six years. The South Newark Basin includes portions of Bucks, Montgomery, and Berks counties, and could provide at least 360 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to estimates by the United States Geologic Survey. … Continue reading

FRACKING: Corruption a Part of Pennsylvania’s Heritage

  by WALTER BRASCH  (part 3 of 3) The history of energy exploration, mining, and delivery is best understood in a range from benevolent exploitation to worker and public oppression. A company comes into an area, leases land in rural and agricultural areas for mineral rights, increases employment, usually in a depressed economy, strips the land of its resources, creates health problems for its workers and those in the immediate area, and then leaves. It makes no difference if it’s timber, oil, or coal. In the 1970s and 1980s, the nuclear energy industry promised well-paying jobs, clean energy, and a safe health and work environment. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima Daiichi, and thousands of violations issued by the Nuclear Regulatory … Continue reading

FRACKING: Health, Environmental Impact Greater Than Claimed

By WALTER BRASCH   (This is Part 2 of 3. Part 1 looked at a state gag order on physicians; Part 3 examines why Pennsylvania is giving special consideration to the natural gas companies.)    The natural gas industry defends hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, as safe and efficient. Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a pro-industry non-profit organization, claims fracking has been “a widely deployed as safe extraction technique,” dating back to 1949. What he doesn’t say is that until recently energy companies had used low-pressure methods to extract natural gas from fields closer to the surface than the current high-pressure technology that extracts more gas, but uses significantly more water, chemicals, and elements. The industry … Continue reading

FRACKING: Pennsylvania Gags Physicians

  by WALTER BRASCH  (Part 1 of 3)  A new Pennsylvania law endangers public health by forbidding health care professionals from sharing information they learn about certain chemicals and procedures used in high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The procedure is commonly known as fracking. Fracking is the controversial method of forcing water, gases, and chemicals at tremendous pressure of up to 15,000 pounds per square inch into a rock formation as much as 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to open channels and force out natural gas and fossil fuels. Advocates of fracking argue not only is natural gas “greener” than coal and oil energy, with significantly fewer carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur emissions, the mining of natural gas generates significant … Continue reading

Death by Healthy Doses

  by WALTER BRASCH         They buried Bouldergrass today. The cause of death was listed as “media-induced health.” Bouldergrass had begun his health crusade more than a decade ago when he began reading more than the sports pages of his local newspaper, subscribed to his first magazine, and decided TV news could be informative if it didn’t mention anything about wars, famines, and poverty. Based on what he read and saw in the media, Bouldergrass moved from smog-bound Los Angeles to a rural community in scenic green Vermont, gave up alcohol and a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, and was immediately hospitalized for having too much oxygen in his body. To burn off some of that oxygen, he joined America’s “beautiful people” … Continue reading

The High Cost of Freedom from Fossil Fuels

For a few hours on the afternoon of Nov. 1, the people of southern California were scared by initial reports of an alert at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. An “alert” is the second of four warning levels. Workers first detected an ammonia leak in a water purification system about 3 p.m. Ammonia, when mixed into air, is toxic. The 30 gallons of ammonia were caught in a holding tank and posed no health risk, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC).   During the 1970s and 1980s, at the peak of the nuclear reactor construction, organized groups of protestors mounted dozens of anti-nuke campaigns. They were called Chicken Littles, the establishment media generally ignored their concerns, and the … Continue reading