Lack of Funding for Gas Drilling Research Could Lead to More Lawsuits

More research is needed
on gas drilling, but where is
the money going to come from?
From the Associated Press:
Is gas drilling ruining the air, polluting water and making people sick? The evidence is sketchy and inconclusive, but a lack of serious funding is delaying efforts to resolve those pressing questions and creating a vacuum that could lead to a crush of lawsuits, some experts say.
House committee in June turned down an Obama administration request to fund $4.25 million in research on how drilling may affect water quality. In the spring, Pennsylvania stripped $2 million of funding that included a statewide health registry to track respiratory problems, skin conditions, stomach ailments and other illnesses potentially related to gas drilling.
"It's almost as if it's a secret, that they don't want to know about people who are affected," said Janet McIntyre, who lives near a drilling area about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. "There's a lot of people in my neighborhood that have rashes and little red spots."
State officials say the air and water in the community is safe, and doctors haven't confirmed that drilling caused illnesses. But without a full-scale medical review or other research in such cases, the worries remain.
"Right now, the kind of comprehensive research that's needed just hasn't started," saidBernard Goldstein, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
The drilling boom has come about because of advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that have made enormous reserves of gas accessible, leading to more jobs and profits and lower energy costs. But there are also concerns about pollution. The gas is pulled from the ground through a process in which large volumes of water, plus sand and chemicals, are injected deep underground to break rock apart and free the gas.
Environmentalists claim that the fluids associated with drilling could rise and pollute shallow drinking water aquifers, and that methane leaks cause serious air pollution. The industry and many government officials say the practice is safe when done properly, and many communities welcome the jobs and the royalty payments landowners receive. But there have also been cases in which faulty wells did pollute water.
Scientists, residents and even some energy companies agree on one thing: Without credible answers, the fears and lawsuits over possible public health and environmental impacts are likely to grow.
Read the rest of the article here.

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