$1 Million Grant for Pa. Gas Drilling Health Study
By Associated Press
18 February 2013
DANVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania health company says it has
gotten a $1 million grant to study possible health impacts of
natural gas drilling on the Marcellus shale.
Geisinger Health System said Monday that the Degenstein Foundation
had awarded the money to help underwrite what it called a
"large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment" of the drilling.
Most of the money will be used for data-gathering, and some will
go toward developing studies of the data. Officials said they
expect other funders to come forward.
The study is to look at detailed health histories of hundreds of
thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities
that are producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation
thousands of feet underground. The boom in drilling has generated
jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for companies and
individual leaseholders, but it also raised health concern.
Geisinger Health Systems of Danville, Guthrie Health of Sayre and
Susquehanna Health will collaborate on planning and execution of
the study, including developing a health surveillance network
aimed at assessing and reporting on the patient data gathered from
electronic health records.
"The goal is to create a cross-disciplinary, integrated and
sharable repository of data on environmental exposures, health
outcomes and community impacts of Marcellus shale drilling — the
first systematic longitudinal study to do so," the announcement
said. "Some of the potential health effects that are likely to be
investigated first include asthma, trauma and cardiovascular
Preliminary results could be available within the next year, while
other findings are expected in five years and over the next two
Many federal and state regulators say hydraulic fracturing is safe
when done properly, and that thousands of wells have been drilled
with few complaints of pollution. But environmental groups and
some doctors assert that regulations still aren't tough enough and
that the practice can pollute groundwater and air.
A decision earlier this month by state regulators in New York to
delay a decision on shale gas development pending a more in-depth
health study in that state drew praise from environmental groups
but protests from landowners eager to reap profits from their
mineral resources and frustrated at another delay in a rulemaking
process that has kept drilling on hold for 4½ years.
Health Commissioner Nirav Shah cited Geisinger's planned study as
one of several that have been initiated or published by the
scientific community. Also cited was an EPA study on potential
impacts of fracking activities on drinking water that is due to be
completed in 2014 and a study recently announced by researchers
from the University of Pennsylvaniain collaboration with
scientists from Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of