A group of leading physicians believes the settlement between a western Pennsylvania family claiming the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) conducted by Range Resources Corp. is responsible for their adverse health side effects should be unsealed.
According to a Bloomberg report, the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice has filed an appeal to a decision from a Washington County (Pa.) judge to seal the record in the case, claiming physicians should have access to the decision so they can better determine the potential health effects fracking drilling has on people living near an active fracking well. The appeal is from the group Child Health Advocacy Institute and several others.
At some point last year, the Pennsylvania family reached an accord with Range Resources and several other companies with active fracking wells near their home south of Pittsburgh. In filing the appeal of the decision to seal the details of that settlement, doctors believe knowing the chemicals used in the fracking process that may have caused these health side effects could help treat more people in the future making similar claims.
In their lawsuit against Range Resources and several other unnamed drillers using the fracking technique to get natural gas from underground shale formations, the Hallowich family of Washington County claimed that localized drilling caused them to suffer myriad health side effects, including nosebleeds, headaches, sore throats, and eye irritation. In reality, they are just one family making this claim in Pennsylvania and anywhere else fracking drilling is conducted and there likely are many more who are suffering from similar conditions that could be the result of exposure to the dangerous chemicals and other toxic agents used in the controversial drilling process.
In fracking, a mix of more than 600 chemicals, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a drill are ushered into an underground well until it reaches a shale bed about two miles below the surface. When that hits the shale, the drill blasts apart the rock, releasing natural gas deposits. Everything rushed into the well is then forced back to the surface where it is to be collected, stored, and processed, including the wastewater generated by the process.
Pennsylvania laws allow companies using the fracking technique to withhold the exact contents of that drilling fluid, namely the list of chemicals used in it. It is believed more than five dozen chemicals used in fracking are known toxins and doctors who’ve filed an appeal to unseal the terms of this recent settlement believe the contents of fracking fluid which has been blamed on causing health side effects is contained within it. Fracking drillers are protected under those state laws from disclosing the exact contents of fracking fluid because they’re considered trade secrets. Further, Pennsylvania law prohibits doctors from discussing with their patients the contents of drilling fluids – if they’re fortunate enough to know for themselves – if one of them should be approached by someone claiming to have been impacted by the drilling near their homes.
In addition to the appeal from the physicians’ group, two local newspapers have also appealed the judge’s decision to seal the record in this settlement. According to the same report, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter newspapers have also sought to unseal the same records.