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UPDATE: Research Confirms Shale Development is Protective of Public Health

Nov 16, 2016

**Updated November 16, 2016**

PHReportIn a regulatory proceeding Dr. Christopher M. Long, principal scientist at Gradient and a certified Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, was retained by Range Resources and submitted among the most extensive overviews on shale gas development and public health. In his exhaustive report Dr. Long concluded: 

“Overall, the body of scientific evidence bearing on potential air exposures and health risks from Marcellus Shale development does not provide evidence of new or unique air pollutant exposures associated with NGD activities; instead, the available studies focus on air pollutant exposures that have been well-studied in other contexts and for which health-based exposure guidelines and effective regulatory frameworks have been developed. Similar to other operations, it is thus expected that NGD-related air emissions and potential air quality impacts can be addressed through current air quality management practices and adherence to applicable state and federal standards and regulations, such that Marcellus Shale operations can be conducted in a manner protective of community air quality.”

Dr. Long specializes in air pollution exposure assessment and inhalation risk assessment, having worked on a wide variety of indoor and outdoor air quality projects. Prior to joining Gradient 16 years ago, he received his doctorate in Environmental Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, where he conducted a research study to characterize particulate matter mass concentrations, size distributions, and chemical composition inside and outside residential homes. During his career Dr. Long has prepared approximately 30 peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters in the general areas of indoor and outdoor air pollution and exposure and risk assessment. 


Sep 29, 2015

As with any human activity, even activity such as shale gas development that has taken place safely for decades in the United States, it’s understandable that people will seek information to ensure that the activity is safe. This is particularly understandable when it comes to the health and safety of workers and of the communities where the activity takes place.

A new report from Energy in Depth that compiled data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Energy Information Association, “Data Indicate that Massive Improvements in Air Quality, Health a Direct Function of Shale,” demonstrates the enormous benefits to overall air quality, thanks in large part to an increase in natural gas usage in power generation and manufacturing.

See previous post Report: Shale Supports Massive Air Quality & Public Health Improvements.

The report includes a roundup of important studies that determines “research confirms development is protective of public health.” From the report:

Originally posted by Katie Brown, PhD from Energy in Depth on September 21, 2015

  • An analysis by Pa. DEP that found air emissions in the Marcellus region significantly decreased in 2012.  In fact, according to DEP secretary Abruzzo, the “across-the-board emission reductions … can be attributed to the steady rise in the production and development of natural gas, the greater use of natural gas, lower allowable emissions limits, installation of control technology and the deactivation of certain sources.”
  • report commissioned by Fort Cherry School District in southwest Pennsylvania, which examined air emissions at a nearby well site, “did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.”
  • recent study led by researchers at Drexel University that found low levels of air emissions at well sites in the Marcellus region. As they explained, “we did not observe elevated levels of any of the light aromatic compounds (benzene, toluene, etc.)” and “there are few emissions of nonalkane VOCs (as measured by PTR-MS) from Marcellus Shale development.”
  • study by Professional Service Industries, Inc., commissioned by Union Township in Pennsylvania that found “Airborne gas and TVOC levels appear to have been at or near background levels for the entire monitoring periods in the three locations monitored.”
  • study on emissions in the Barnett Shale by the Houston based ToxStrategies which concluded that there is no credible health risk associated with shale development. As the researchers noted: “The analyses demonstrate that, for the extensive number of VOCs measured, shale gas production activities have not resulted in community-wide exposures to those VOCs at levels that would pose a health concern.”
  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality conducted months of testing in the Barnett Shale region of North Texas, and its samples showed “no levels of concern for any chemicals.” TCEQ added that “there are no immediate health concerns from air quality in the area.”
  • report by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection which found no major health threat from shale. According to that report: “Based on a review of completed air studies to date, including the results from the well pad development monitoring conducted in West Virginia’s Brooke, Marion, and Wetzel Counties, no additional legislative rules establishing special requirements need to be promulgated at this time.”
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health installed air quality monitors at a well site that activists had complained about. CDPHE concluded: “The monitored concentrations of benzene, one of the major risk driving chemicals, are well within acceptable limits to protect public health, as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The concentrations of various compounds are comparatively low and are not likely to raise significant health issues of concern.”
  • A study by the Texas Department of State Health Services which used incorporated testing of individuals’ blood samples to see if there was a relationship between air emissions and poor health.  The researchers concluded there was no connection.
  • recent study by the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council (BSEEC) looked at five Barnett wells in Mansfield, Tex., during both hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and flowback activities. The report measured volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other emissions, and concluded that “none of the observed VOCs were noted above the comparison criteria.”
  • The Pa. DEP conducted air monitoring northeast Pennsylvania and concluded that the state “did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities.” A similar report for southwestern Pennsylvania came to the same conclusion.
  • A peer-reviewed study looking at cancer incidence rates in several Pennsylvania counties found “no evidence that childhood leukemia was elevated in any county after [hydraulic fracturing] commenced.”
  • report by Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health, concluded: “The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction are low if the operations are properly run and regulated.”
  • The Ministry of Health in British Columbia, Canada recently released a report which found that public health risks from shale development are very low.  As the assessment concludes, “The overall findings of the detailed HHRA of oil and gas activity in NE BC suggest that, while there is some possibility for elevated COPC [chemicals of potential concern] concentrations to occur at some locations, the probability that adverse health impacts would occur in association with these exposures is considered to be low.”

Range’s Corporate Responsibility has documented in great detail industry actions to reduce and reuse methane and other hydrocarbons from production that could be emitted during production for environmental, safety and economic reasons

The enormous positive opportunity that shale oil and gas means for North America is simply too important to not get right, which is why scientific study and an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders clearly aligns with Range’s Core Values.

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