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Environmental Group Warns of High Costs to Citizens from Natural Gas Development

On the same day Governor Tom Corbett praised the Marcellus Shale industry and called fracking opponents “unreasoning,” PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center released a study that outlines the costs of development to citizens including the costs associated with contaminated water, health care, and infrastructure.

“The Cost of Fracking” gives examples from other areas of the country. In Arkansas’ Fayette Shale Region, the report said air pollution from fracking operations impose health costs estimated at $9.8 million dollars a year. One of the main sources of costs to residents comes from contaminated water, but the costs don’t stop there.

“Beyond the water we depend on for drinking, our report shows more than a dozen different ways that fracking damage winds costing communities from ruined roads, to contaminated cattle on farms to health costs from air pollution, and some of these costs will come later, like pollution we find years after drilling companies have left the scene, have left Pennsylvania,” said PennEnvironment’s Erika Staaf.

However, there are no hard cost estimates in the PennEnvironment's report because Staaf said researchers took into account current and future costs.  She said those future costs are not set in stone and urged state lawmakers to take action to require companies to take financial responsibility for areas in which they frack.

“The least commonwealth officials can do is require that companies like Chesapeake, Range Resources and others, provide full financial assurance for their damage up front, because if it’s their dollars going down the drain, perhaps they’ll be a little less dirty with their drilling,” she said.

There are environmental regulations in place requiring companies to return water quality to normal, help residents whose water is contaminated or fixing roads, but Staaf said that doesn’t mean it’s happening. She added, what companies are doing now may not be enough in the long-run.

“There might be impact fees paid now, there might be companies around to fix the roads, but the questions we have to ask is what happens however many years from now when we’ve tapped all the gas we have in Pennsylvania, drilling companies move on and there’s no one left to pay the cost,” said Staaf, “I say to the person, good luck tracking down the gas driller who contaminated your drinking water at that point.”

Find the full report here.