Krajewski, Frankel introduced fracking health bill

AP file photos Work is pictured at a shale gas well drilling site in St. Mary’s, Pa.

After nearly a year of tweaking, House Reps. Rick Krajewski and Dan Frankel have introduced new fracking legislation that includes a $10,000 fee for each hydraulic fracturing infrastructure facility.

Krajewski, D-Philadelphia, and Frankel, D-Allegheny, introduced a co-sponsorship memorandum in June 2021, but only introduced their bill on June 14. It was referred to the House of Representatives’ Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren.

“Currently the Pennsylvania fracking industry is entirely regulated by an underfunded and understaffed Department of Environmental Protection,” Frankel and Krajewski wrote in their legislative memorandum. “But the impacts of fracking extend beyond our precious air, land and water surrounding wells.

Extensive research indicates that fracking significantly impacts the lung, hearts and bodies of the people living and working nearby.”

Frankel and Krajewski cite in their legislative memorandum a 235-page 2020 state Attorney General’s report on hydraulic fracturing in the state. Witnesses from 70 households, mostly in rural parts of the state, told of being left with sores after showering with contaminated water, seeing farm animals die or become infertile and trying to help children plagued by a bewildering array of health problems. The jurors concluded the industry is making children sick, listing rashes, headaches, nose bleeds, bruising, cramps, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, tremors and stabbing or burning sensations. Symptoms would often go away when people left their homes.

Rep. Rick Krajewski speaks at a Harrisburg Rally to call for the creation of the Whole Home Repairs fund that would help Pennsylvanians make necessary repairs to keep them safe in their homes.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s response that was appended to the jurors’ findings said much of the report was inaccurate and misleading. The agency’s lawyer wrote that the report will falsely lead people “to believe their government is incompetent and/or places the economic well-being of various corporations above their health and well-being and that of the commonwealth’s public natural resources.

Frankel and Krajewski propose having the Department of Environmental Protection collect and analyze data on hydraulic fracturing and hydraulic fracturing chemicals, including investigating complaints related to well sites from individuals who report health problems that may have resulted from hydraulic fracturing; interviews with health professionals in communities where hydraulic fracturing is happening; and implementing a communitywide health data program to collect health data in those communities.

Physicians treating those with health symptoms found to be prevalent in hydraulic fracturing communities would be required to report symptoms to the state Health Department within 30 days.

Before new hydraulic fracturing permits are approved, baseline health data in the community would be collected so that before and after comparisons can be made. Data would be made available each year on the Department of Environmental Protection website.

Frankel and Krajewski also propose an Interdepartmental Coordinating Task Force to consult with the Department of Environmental Protection and local health officials to collect, analyze and maintain data. The task force would include the environmental protection secretary, health secretary, directors of the bureaus of air quality, clean water and safe drinking water and the director of the Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology.

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, is pictured at a news conference in the state capitol.

The Department of Environmental Protection would also be tasked with gathering water and air quality data within 2,500 feet of any proposed hydraulic fracturing site and, every quarter, gather air and water quality samples from locations within 2,500 feet of existing hydraulic fracturing sites.

Money paid by natural gas companies would be deposited into a Oil and Natural Gas Public Health Registry Fund.

“For this reason, we plan to introduce a bill that would require the DOH to coordinate with the DEP to collect, analyze and maintain updated data on the impact of fracking on public health and make this data available and easily accessible to the public,” Frankel and Krajewski wrote. “In addition, my bill would require (Health Department) and (Department of Environmental Protection) to investigate all resident complaints related to fracking facilities. (The Health Department) would also coordinate with local health centers and develop public education resources and training on the impact of fracking for local health officials. To better facilitate data collection, (the Health Department) would ensure that affected communities are fully aware of, and have easy access to, lines of communication with the department.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today