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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Groups put focus on fracking ills

"SUMMIT TWP — A gas well near Summit Elementary School (Butler) has been an ongoing issue for some. Groups representing Moms Clean Air Force, Women for a Healthy Environment and the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project joined a radiation oncologist outside of the school Monday afternoon. The doctor was examining the health impacts of natural gas drilling to urge policymakers to implement stronger drilling regulations in areas in proximity to schools. The group spent an hour outside the school bringing awareness of the proximity of the well.

Moms Clean Air Force is a group against air pollution, which includes flaring and other byproducts of hydraulic fracturing used in gas wells. There are more than 20,000 members in Pennsylvania. Crystal Yost, who has children in the Mars School District, is a Western Pennsylvania organizer for the group. She said the air emissions from gas wells are just part of the problem. “We're exposing them to evacuation, in the event of an accident on a well pad. They're going to be exposed to a lot more problems in the air,” Yost said of students. “We keep putting these gas wells within the known evacuation routes of schools.”

Raina Rippel, director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, also was there Monday. “Behind me is the playground. In front of me is the gas well,” she said. “It's too close.” Dr. Marsha Haley, a radiation oncologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is part of a national working group researching the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling. “A majority of the literature I've studied shows that fracking has significant health risks that are not mitigated by current setback distances between the wells and the public,” she said.  “This is especially concerning for children whose little bodies are more susceptible to air pollutants. As a parent and a physician, I want to see policy solutions.”"