Letter of Inquiry from a Public Health Professional
By Mary Ellen Cassidy, Community Outreach Coordinator
I recently came across a letter by Dr. Alan Ducatman, MS, MD, Professor of Public Health and Medicine at WVU in Donald Strimbeck’s updates. It stuck me by its sincerity, logical tone, and reasonableness.
Dr. Ducatman’s letter begins by commenting on the gas industry’s response to a surface spill in Garfield County. The industry’s response to this spill, an Energy In Depth Blog (12/20/13), includes the following statement, “We all know spills are bad and can cause problems, so what exactly did they expect to find?”
Dr. Ducatman’s letter looks past the rather snide tone of the response to commend the industry for its honest acknowledgement that spills do occur and bad things can and do happen. Dr. Ducatman notes that, although the response “lacks consistency with past and present behavior in public forums,” he hopes to see it become a “consistent and reasonable position” in the future.
The letter then calls on industry to be more scientific and open in their communications regarding other issues such as quality assurance, worker safety, well casing failures, leaks, water testing impediments, public protection practices, and reporting, while reminding the industry of the human and economic costs of externalities and the “terrible weight” of these collateral impacts on communities.
It occurred to me, upon reading this letter that more of us need to ask questions of the industry and take action to protect and support our impacted communities. Not only do we need more professional researchers like Dr. Ducatman asking questions, we also need many more people on the ground documenting what is happening around them to hold the industry accountable.
FracTracker Alliance aims to empower and equip volunteers to track and document unconventional gas and oil activities. Options for engagement include:
- Trail Logbook – addressing trail-based observations about physical and experiential conflicts related to oil and gas development
- The US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts – aggregating cases of home drinking water problems that may be associated with oil and gas exploration
- The new FracTracker mobile app (for iPhones) – making it easy to take photos and record information on various oil and gas impacts in your neighborhood or afar. We are currently in the pilot testing phase of this app, which can also be used to contribute data to the other two programs described above.
These programs depend on crowdsourced information from you and others to grow a national database on the extensive footprint of the industry. Check out our website and projects to see where you fit.
In addition, we always welcome your ideas on how our mapping and other services can help your community’s efforts to protect its health and natural resources.
Contact me to learn more about how you can become a part of the FracTracker team, and a special thank you to Dr. Alan Ducatman for his letter reenergizing this important conversation.
If you are one of those people ready to work together in a concerted effort towards a more positive energy future, FracTracker needs you.
Mary Ellen Cassidy, Community Outreach Coordinator