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Fracking / Petrochemical

Over the last decade, fracking in the oil and gas industry has rapidly expanded, and more recently, there has been a proposed plan to build out petrochemical facilities in the Ohio River Valley. Unfortunately, this petrochemical buildout is largely for the production of single-use plastics! All of these operations are extracting the resources and wealth from our communities and putting our health at risk. We are working to amplify the voices of people impacted by this industry and to advocate for better protections for our water, air, and land.

Many members of our communities are impacted by oil and gas drilling operations via close proximity to well pad operations or general community exposure. We work hard to empower and educate community members on how to mitigate negative health impacts as well as how to navigate their relationship with the company to hold them accountable to keeping our communities safe.

"Growing up and living in Washington County, Pennsylvania has given me a unique opportunity to share with anyone interested a first-hand account of what it is like to live in the most heavily fracked county in our state. Through hearing my story and those of other impacted residents, people can get an idea of what is is like to live in Southwestern Pennsylvania among the shale fields." ~ Lois Bower-Bjornson

Impacts of Fracking / Petrochemicals

Fracking
Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking,” is a destructive process implemented to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock formations that lie deep underground.

When we use the term "fracking" in this section and throughout the website, we are referring to the whole process of extraction of oil and gas, from the start of excavating the site, to moving the gas to market, and disposal of the waste. It is important to know that when industry uses the words fracking or fracturing, they are referring to one specific process in the extraction oil and gas from the earth.

Waste Disposal
FracTracker tank farm

We know that the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) shoots a mixture of water, chemicals, and propellants deep into the earth to open up fissures in the shale layer to release gas. It’s not just the gas that comes back up to the surface: drilling fluids and solid materials like drill cuttings are produced alongside the gas when fracking. Handling the waste presents problems. 

Pipelines
pipeline

Pipelines are (mostly underground) pipes that carry various fracked gas products throughout the country. People often think of pipelines as the small, lightly-pressurized pipelines that carry processed, odorized gas into their homes. Those lines are called distribution lines; however, there are also gathering lines and transmission lines that are used to transport gas from the wellhead to its ultimate market destination. Gathering lines, transmission lines, and distribution lines all play a different role in the process. 

Petrochemical Processing
FracTracker MarkWest

Fracked gas has a number of uses: in 2020, 40% of the fracked gas produced in the country was used in electricity generation; 15% has residential uses. However, renewable energy is taking up a growing portion of the market share - meaning more and more of our energy is coming from renewable sources like solar and wind. In 2020, 33% of the fracked gas in the country was used for the industrial sector - this is the sector that the fossil fuel industry needs to be able to grow if they want to continue to see huge profits. The solution: plastic. Petrochemical processing allows fracked gas, particularly ethane, to be “cracked” into the feedstock of ubiquitous plastic products. 

Our Fracking/Petrochemical Work

All of our campaigns have begun by community members bringing an issue to our attention and working with them to build a strategic plan to stop impacts onto people and the environment.

Closing the oil and gas hazardous waste loophole

The oil and gas industry has a loophole that allows them to avoid testing their waste to determine if it is hazardous, and this waste is disposed of in our landfills and rivers. Our team is working to close this loophole through organizing impacted people in order to advocate for their health to be protected over private profits.

STAFF LEAD: Heaven Sensky

Department of Health Accountability for Increased Childhood Cancers in the region

Our region is experiencing an increase in rare childhood cancers and the Department of Health has commissioned a study on the health effects of fracking. Our team of leaders is ensuring the DOH is accountable to the parents whose children are impacted by these cancers.

STAFF LEAD: Heaven Sensky

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Assisting Residents with impacts from unconventional gas drilling/fracking

Many residents in Washington and Greene County receive little to no notice when a fracking operation will become their neighbor. We work with residents so that they know what their rights are in reference to the regulations and to support them in protecting their homes and water from being harmed. 

STAFF LEAD: Ethan Story

Our Fracking/Petrochemical Related News

Health Advocacy Groups Meet with PA DOH and DEP to Discuss Community and Physician Interaction, Setbacks, Water Provisions for Affected Residents, and Tour of Communities Impacted by Shale Gas Development

By Heaven Sensky | October 1, 2021

October 1, 2021— On September 21, public health advocacy groups Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania (PSR PA) and the SWPA Environmental Health Project (EHP) met for a fifth time with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) to press the agency to consider a number of actions that would lower the risk of health impacts to residents from shale gas development emissions. Secretary Alison Beam and seven other DOH representatives attended the virtual meeting. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), including Deputy Secretary of the Office of Oil and Gas Management Scott Perry, also attended.

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The latest on the efforts to close the hazardous waste loophole in PA

By Lisa DePaoli | September 30, 2021

Under current PA law, oil and gas waste is not classified as hazardous, although it contains radioactive and other dangerous materials. This waste is allowed to be disposed of in […]

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Close the Loophole in State Laws Governing the Disposal of Toxic Drilling Waste

By Phoenix White | August 9, 2021

Because of a shortsighted exemption made 30 years ago, Pennsylvanians are exposed daily to potentially toxic and radioactive waste produced by the oil and gas industry. For the last three decades, these companies have taken advantage of a loophole in state laws governing the disposal of toxic drilling waste.

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