Energy. Environment. Economy.

Public Health Research Funds Cut From Impact Fee

Public health advocates say they’re disappointed by the lack of funding for Marcellus Shale-related health research in the recently signed Pennsylvania impact fee law.

One of the key players in the drafting of the law says, however, that such research has drawbacks as well as benefits.

Earlier versions of the bill had set aside $2 million  to track and monitor public health in drilling areas. Marilyn Heine, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, says the funding is essential to gather unbiased, baseline health information.

“We’re hamstrung by the fact that we don’t have the data we need,” says Heine.

Heine says gathering baseline data is vital to any study of whether any significant public health impacts can be linked to gas drilling.

“There are physicians who see patients and they may have a cough or a rash,” says Heine. “But [the doctor] is not sure if there’s a relationship [to drilling activity].”

The lack of data and knowledge, says Heine, makes it difficult to treat patients, or give advice on prevention. Heine says states like Colorado and Texas, where a drilling boom began before Pennsylvania’s gas rush, don’t provide a great road map.

“We can look at other communities where fracking has been going on for some time,” said Heine.  ”But we’re not sure they have all the data either.”

But Drew Crompton, one of the main authors of the bill, says funding such a study would be “dangerous.”

Crompton serves as Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati’s chief of staff, and helped draft the law. He says funding a baseline study in heavily drilled areas could cause unnecessary panic among the residents.

“Imagine living near a well, and everything’s fine, and you get a letter in the mail asking to take part in medical tests,” says Crompton. “And then those people are like: ‘Why do I have to get tests? What could be wrong with me?’”

Crompton says funding health studies with impact fee money is not out of the question. But he says it would have to be handled “very carefully.”


  • Dory Hippauf

    But Drew Cromp­ton, one of the main authors of the bill, says fund­ing such a study would be “dangerous.”
    Cromp­ton serves as Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Joe Scarnati’s chief of staff, and helped draft the law. He says fund­ing a base­line study in heav­ily drilled areas could cause unnec­es­sary panic among the residents.
    The top recipient remains Governor Tom Corbett, with a total $1,634,096 in contributions from the natural gas industry. Corbett raised $1,083,315 of that total in 2009-2010 from 216 donations.  He is followed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, with $293,333.  Dangerous for who? Seems it would be dangerous for the pocket politicians.

  • Sjandat3

    Uhm…you mean they might pannick when?? When they hear that the gas drilling that you are doing by their homes and families my be making them sick???  Or…are YOU pannicking..when test studies come back with positive results that  the drilling  you are doing by their families and homes ARE MAKING THEM SICK!?!?!?!?!  If you have nothing to hide..and these people’s health is fine…they what is the problem???  YOu don’t want people to think you are concerned with safty…or that you don’t want people to find out that you ARE NOT!!!!

  • Brian Oram

    Well first of all the reason for not funding is not a good reason,but a better reason is that monies should go to help fix the problems we know.  That problem would be the 1.5 million citizens of Pennsylvania that drink water that does not meet drinking water standards.   How about we fix these wells first ! This is a real known health problem.   If someone wants to do research – let a foundation pay for it.   Impact fees should be used to fix problems and support sustainable solutions.

  • Maggie Henry

    Oh, let’s just introduce a heavy industrial extraction into residential and agricultural areas with out any funding for health studies…as a matter of fact let’s just cancel the funding twice…! What could possibly go wrong? And who gives a rat’s ass about the people that get turned into environmental refugees with no where to go?!?

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