As part of our staff spotlight series, learn more about Kyle Ferrar and why he works with FracTracker Alliance to conduct and communicate research on the public health impacts associated with the oil and gas / fossil fuel industry.
Time with FracTracker: I’ve been working with FracTracker since its inception in 2010, and started as an official staff member in July, 2014.
Education: BS from the University of Pittsburgh; and MPH from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where I am currently a DrPH candidate.
Office Location: I have an office in downtown Oakland, CA.
Title: Western Program Coordinator
What do you actually do in that role?
My major role as the Western Program Coordinator consists of a variety of responsibilities of operating a FracTracker Alliance branch office. In addition to the contributions of analyses and research that is documented on FracTracker’s California (and other western states’) page, my activities include fundraising, community outreach, and acting as an expert adviser on public health impacts for policy makers, regulators, other research institutions, at conferences, and directly to the public.
Previous Position and Organization
My previous research as a staff member with the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) at the University of Pittsburgh focused on public health impacts from various sectors of the fossil fuel industry, including Marcellus Shale development. In the picture to the right, you can see a CHEC colleague and I collecting water samples from the Allegheny River, next to a coal fired power plant.
How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?
As a steward to my local environment in Southwestern Pennsylvania, I was alerted of the concerns many residents were feeling as a result of the rapid increase of industrial presence in rural Pennsylvania resulting from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction. The connections our CHEC had made in the past using community based participatory research methods to address and study other sources of environmental degradation were a vital resource for understanding what was really happening – on the ground.
What is one of the most impactful projects that you have been involved in with FracTracker?
The majority of my time is spent working on my computer, and cleaning and massaging datasets in spreadsheets. This is necessary and important, but incredibly tedious and far-removed. One project in 2015 that started this way, as most do, became much more personal. Working with a group called Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, we identified the fact that Hispanic students and other students of color are more likely to attend schools near active oil and gas wells than white students. This was also true for hydraulically fractured (stimulated) oil and gas wells. Now, no student should have to go to school near this type of activity, but California does not have minimum setback requirements for schools or any other sensitive sites.
Meeting and working with the families of the students – and the students themselves that attend schools in the midst of the oil and gas wastelands – drives me to continue working for a future free from the fossil-fuel industry. No child should have to go to school near oil and gas fields to get an education. And as is typically the case, non-white and Hispanic communities in California bear the heaviest burden.
Check back soon to read the analysis described above. It will be the focus of my next blog piece.
Feature Image: Kyle Ferrar (left) with colleagues from CRPE