There is a hearing today in front of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The subcommittee is studying the draft report by the EPA on the effects of unconventional natural gas drilling in and around Pavilion, Wyoming which found some groundwater contamination, particularly from gas drilling wells which were not cased to a depth below the bottom of nearby water wells.
Bernie Goldstein, MD, a frequent paid expert on behalf of plaintiffs in benzene litigation has released the outline of his testimony. He calls repeatedly for money from congress to prospectively study the health impacts of unconventional shale gas drilling, commonly known as hydraulic fracturing or fracing.
While no health effects have currently been found to result from fracing, Dr. Goldstein implores Congress to study not just whether fracing fluids are somehow getting in the water or air (which is currently being studied) and is a necessary precursor to eventual disease caused by fracing. Instead, Dr. Goldstein seems to want to study all of the chemicals used in fracing fluids (as well as noise, truck exhaust, and anything else that goes on at a well site) and see if any can cause disease, if they are released in the water, air, or some other way. He cites community groups who are worried about the potential harm as evidence that there is a potential harm. His stated major concern is that “It is possible that unconventional gas drilling will cause index cases of unusual diseases over time given how little we know about the health implications of the fracking mixtures.” It is possible, but not shown because as of now, there is neither a signature disease of fracing fluids or an established mode of exposure.
Dr. Goldstein’s real conclusion is that it is a virtual certainty that adverse health effects will be statistically associated with unconventional gas development activities. This may be because statistics can be found to support almost any association if the data are parsed to fit the conclusion sought.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are clearly gunning to make fracing the next toxic tort.