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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Former state health employees say they were silenced on drilling

excerpts: "Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling. One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development. “We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years. Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that. Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting. In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”

"It was not unusual, Stuck said, for department brass to send out written talking points on certain issues, such as the H1N1 or “swine flu” virus, meant to guide staff in answering questions from the public. This was different. “There was a list of buzzwords we had gotten,” Stuck said. “There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination. There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them.”"

 http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2014/06/19/former-state-health-employees-say-they-were-silenced-on-drilling/