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Shale Gas and Health: Science Meets Politics


Public health researchers gathered at the University of Pittsburgh on Friday to share their findings on how drilling in the Marcellus Shale for natural gas does or does not impact human health.

Among the presenters was Duke University's Robert Jackson. He co-authored a study earlier this year showing higher concentrations of methane in groundwater near Marcellus shale gas wells. The study instantly thrust Jackson into the national debate about franking.

"I had phone calls and messages it's fair to categorize as hate messages," said Jackson. "I had people call me up crying, saying, 'thank you for your study,' and everything in between."

Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer heaped on even more criticism for Jackson's study. In comments to a congressional subcommittee on fracking, Krancer called the study "suspect" and charged Jackson with cherry-picking data to support an anti-fracking agenda. Jackson has heard the arguments before and refutes the claims.

The heated politics may be one reason why there's not much public health research into shale gas. Under current plans, the EPA would only begin studying public health impacts of fracking in 2014.