The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) logs incoming complaints from residents about drilling activity in the Commonwealth, and Public Herald has spent a great deal of time aggregating and making that information public. A recent investigation by Public Herald into that data, with help from FracTracker, has highlighted a number of concerning issues related to fracking in Pennsylvania unfortunately.
Firstly, the data they reviewed indicate that complaints from residents about unconventional drilling (how most fracked wells are designated) are more common than those about traditional wells. Secondly, it seems that complaints about fracked wells are increasing over time, even though the number of new wells has decreased.
There may be several reasons for such trends, and Public Herald discusses some of them in their new report. Are fracking wells more likely to fail, resulting in a higher proportion of complaints from nearby residents? Or has tracking simply improved in recent years? What these trends undoubtably indicate, however, is that the impacts from drilling have been systemic, according to Drs. Ingraffea and Stolz, who also reviewed the data.
Probably the most troubling finding unearthed in this investigation is that the PA DEP was not transparent about complaint data. The information they released to Public Herald differed wildly from the spreadsheets previously obtained by other requestors. Learn more about this and other issues in Public Herald’s Hidden Data Report.
Digging into the Data
Below we have included a map showing where those complaints originated, as well as a table that parses out the data by county.
The above map by Public Herald and FracTracker Alliance shows the density of citizen complaints reported to the Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 – 2016. It includes conventional and unconventional well complaints. Clicking on a township reveals a database of complaints where viewers can download files.
In addition to the report issued by Public Herald, you can explore the data mapped above in the table below. It fleshes out how many complaints have been issued by residents, where these complaints originated, and how many are specific to water issues.
Table 1. PA Unconventional Well Complaint Statistics Logged by the PA DEP
|DEP Office||County||Total Complaints (#)||Water Complaints (#)||Municipalities w/Complaints (#)||Drilled Unconventional Wells, Jan 2004 – Nov 29 2016|
SWRO = Southwest Regional Office; NWRO = Northwest Regional Office; NCRO (ERO) = North Central/Eastern Regional Office. Find your office here.