Fracking companies compensate but ‘gag’ people affected by their chemicals

New and evolving chemicals

ama logoA reader sends news about fracking ‘gagging orders’ in USA. American Medical News, the print and online news source for physicians published by the American Medical Association, reported a year ago that – ‘across the nation’ – doctors are being drawn into the controversy over induced hydraulic fracturing.

No official route existed for doctors to learn what chemicals patients may have been exposed to near drilling sites and concerns about fracking have now led to more than a dozen state laws requiring drilling companies to make certain disclosures about the chemicals they use, to state agencies or online.

Under a new Pennsylvania law, natural gas companies must tell physicians about the substances with which patients might have come into contact. Doctors have to sign confidentiality agreements promising they will use the information only for those patients’ treatment. Several other states impose similar requirements.

Disclosure rules that apply to other extractive industries are not necessarily the best examples for fracking, a relatively new practice involving multiple substances whose long-term health effects largely are unknown. Bernard D. Goldstein, MD, a professor in the Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health said, “Here, you have lots of new and evolving chemicals.”

fracking hallowich familyIn June this year, a Bloomberg News headline said: Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements. The article cited the case of the Hallowich family, seen right, standing on hillside near their Pittsburgh home to show several gas wells in the vicinity. They sued Range Resources Corp. and two other companies who agreed to a $750,000 settlement. In order to collect, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette added that the family – including two 7 & 10 year-old children – promised not to say anything related to Marcellus Shale development, according to court filings. They said air and water contaminants had caused them to experience burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and earaches, and contaminated their water supply. Reporters for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were barred from the hearing but their request for a transcript was granted by the Washington County Court.

Bloomberg added that in several areas drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who allege hydraulic fracturing has ruined their water. In some cases water contamination is said to have ‘resulted in’ sick children, dead livestock and flammable tap water. According to an EPA review obtained by Bloomberg News recording hundreds of regulatory and legal filings, in most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet.

Keeping data from regulators, policymakers, the news media and health researchers makes it difficult to challenge the industry’s claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water.

 

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Posted on August 4, 2013, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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