US fracking is an “environmental injustice with impacts not felt equally” – new analysis

Pregnant women, children, indigenous people, communities of colour and low-income neighbourhoods are disproportionately harmed by fracking, according to the latest review in the US of risks and damage.

Updated analysis published this week by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, concluded:

“Emerging science shows that fracking is an environmental injustice, with injuries not borne equally by all.”

The findings are based on analysis of peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals, investigative journalism and reports by or for government agencies.

The compendium, now in its eighth edition and running to 577 pages, cited studies which found:

  • Well pads, pipelines and associated infrastructure in multiple US fracking regions were more likely to be in indigenous, non-white, or low-income communities
  • Induced seismicity in Oklahoma disproportionately affected communities with low incomes, female-headed and African-American households, workers employed in farming or extraction and Hispanic populations of employed men
  • Infant health problems, including birth defects, pre-term birth and low birth weight, were more likely in children born to women living near fracking operations

The researchers concluded:

“the vast body of scientific studies now published on hydraulic fracturing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature confirms that the climate and public health risks from fracking are real and the range of environmental harms wide.

“Our examination uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which human health depends.”

It said studies indicated that US fracking was unpredictable with “innate engineering problems”. These included uncontrolled fracturing, induced earthquakes, well casing failures, radiation and methane releases, flaring and pathways for contamination via abandoned wells.

There were well-established links between US drilling, fracking and associated infrastructure and harms to health, the Compendium said. These included cancers, asthma, respiratory diseases, skin complaints, heart concerns, and mental health problems.

The authors said only a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking in the US could deal with the impacts of the process:

“The rapidly expanding body of evidence compiled here is massive, troubling, and cries out for decisive action. Across a wide range of parameters, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks. The risks and harms of fracking are inherent in its operation.”

The compendium said fracking for oil and gas was “driving the current surge in global levels of methane”.

It said more than 100 studies showed that air pollution accompanied fracking, with more than 200 airborne chemical contaminants detected near drilling and fracking operations. Of these, 61 were classified as hazardous air pollutants with known health risks, it said.

The Compendium said the US oil and gas industry pumped more than two billion gallons of fluid underground each day to extract hydrocarbons or as waste disposal.

Demand for water in fracking operations in the US had more than doubled since 2016, the Compendium said, and more than 180 studies showed that fracking-related activities had depleted or contaminated water resources, including groundwater.

The authors said more than 17.6m US residents now lived within a mile of at least one active oil and gas well.

Fracking was now the standard method for oil and gas extraction in the US, they said. Up to 2022, an estimated one million wells have been fracked in the US and hydraulic fracturing now produced at least 79% of US gas and 65% of crude oil.

Link to the eighth edition of Compendium of scientific, medical, and media Findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking and associated gas and oil infrastructure.

30 replies »

  1. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” …


    “We’re all mad here.” …

    And then, Collyer – “ Cheap oil and gas in USA, compared to other parts of the world, have benefitted the least well off disproportionately for many years. And, you wish to curtail that? Nice one 1720! Just more of that collateral damage. Where is all the science around that?”
    So…the benefits accrued by American least well off have left the American better off in a tricky situation, OR,
    the benefits accrued by American least well off over the American better off are disproportionately greater in America than in other parts of the world. OR, and this is my guess, the benefits of oil and gas for the American least well off more than compensates for their toxic effects on the USA and the planet. Which? Do strive for clarity in Wonderland, Martin: it will be difficult. After all, it’s Wonderland. Whichever crazy interpretation of your words you opt for has little bearing on the reports findings, that the least well off, in the USA and elsewhere, bear the brunt of the catastrophic disadvantages of your beloved FFs.
    The rest of your post, ad hominem or not, requires no comment.

  2. “We” are all mad.

    Okay, that is your excuse 1720. I had already come to my own conclusion, but was more polite, and referenced irrational exuberance.

    However in USA, reports of lower oil and fuel stocks send prices higher. How would the least well off be better off from that, 1720? The better off, well healed, are pretty immune from such events.

    If your nonsense was true, then the “cost of living crisis” is non existent in the UK also, and the least well off have no issue with high energy prices! OMG, the parallel universe that you inhabit indicates the least well off have little issue with cost or security of energy supply. Totally wrong, 1720. Not just a tad, but totally wrong. The better off are the ones who suffer the least from high energy prices. Certainly in the UK, many are even better off following the pandemic with data showing household savings increased significantly during the pandemic, but for the least well off that is not the case. The better off were hoping to catch up with the events they missed for two years, now some will have to reduce some of those plans. The least well off never had that choice. Goodness, 1720, you even appear to have morphed into a fake lefty now. How much more credibility will you sacrifice trying to hammer pieces that do not fit the jigsaw?

    Sorry, none of your guesses were correct. Why not DYOR and then you may not need to guess? Your pathway towards a hysterical mixture of words seems to have clouded your ability to make any sense, but I will hold onto “we” are all mad. I will bin your diversion into trying to suggest the least well off do not suffer disproportionately from high oil and gas prices. It is not only factually wrong, it is incredible insulting to those in that situation.

    Breaking News:

    No windfall tax required, heating or eating is a myth. It must be true, because 1720 needs it to be true!

    • I would just add, 1720, gas prices in UK and US were about the same around 2006. Since then, exposure to LNG imports in USA have reduced very significantly due to the increase in US gas from shale. US now has remarkably cheap gas compared to many of its OECD peers, and much cheaper compared to UK. Good news for the less well off especially.

      If you want the exact comparison, DYOR. The data is easy to find. And, if you get the bug, then start to look at gasoline price comparison as well.

      • Adding some more:

        Winter fuel bill for using natural gas last year for US homes would have been around $598., whilst in Japan that relies a great deal upon LNG, the same amount of gas usage would have cost $2500! Obviously an average, but the picture is clear.

        Looks to me as if US fracking has been giving a great deal of help to those in the US who are not so well off, where $598 may be affordable whilst $2500 would not.

        So, I will look at how cheap gas prices are supposed to be disadvantaging the poor, and think, on what planet? Or, in the words of another poster, “we” are all mad.

        • It’s not often I get the chance to respond to three misguided attempts to argue a point of view which you imagine I disagree with.
          I have always been happy to agree that cheap FFs have financially benefited Americans. I’ve never argued against that: why should I? It’s irrelevant. I try and restrict my offerings to what is relevant. Some of us try and grasp the point!
          The point, Martin, – now concentrate…this is difficult for you. It doesn’t matter ultimately how much better off you are if your future is severely curtailed by whatever it is that is making you better off. A comparison follows here, not one of your diversionary techniques. We know that smoking kills. Should we, or should we not, try and deter smokers? Similarly – I obviously need to spell it out for you – many of us know that FFs are killing the planet. Knowing this, even though we are aware that you do not agree that this is the case, would it not be remiss of us not to try and deter the frackers, for example. And if they resist, as you do, would it not be remiss of us, given our certainty, to refrain from banning this fracking. The same argument, I’m spelling it out, applies to all new FF exploitation. I hope you get the point now.
          This, our position, does not make us any the less sympathetic to those in grave need, even in grave danger. It’s just that we are aware that more of the same is, to put it mildly, verging on the insane.
          And, a minor point, as you have proved incapable of grasping the irony behind my quoting of your “well healed” in connection with medicine, might I just point out that I think you mean to refer to the so-called “well heeled”. The therapeutic skills of American medics. and consequent health of their patients is not a point under discussion. Time to consult the OED again.
          Can you please try and concentrate on the point of DorD articles if you wish to engage.

          • [Edited by moderator]

            Ahh, so now an admission that cheap FFs have benefitted Americans. Disproportionately benefitting the poorest. So, now you disagree with this “science” that you were supporting a few days ago, and claiming “science” had to be supported by others, even if nonsense, whilst you had the right to reject other science, even when obviously correct. Interesting.

            I repeat.
            Please explain how the least well off in USA would be better off if they paid the same for their gas as in UK or those in Japan? Come on, 1720, please put some meaning, logic and maybe even some common sense to your words.

            And your argument is that the poor are worried about whether they will have their lives curtailed sometime in the future? What absolute twaddle, totally adrift from reality. The poor are concerned as to whether they will survive to get anywhere near to the future. The better off enjoy the luxury of pontificating about whether their already extended/expanded life cycle-thanks to FFs- should extend by another year or two. (Unfortunately, they forget that they may achieve year 95 and 96, not get two more years in their 20’s!)

            [Edited by moderator]

            Then, you try to be clever with regard to heal and heel. Not so clever that you missed my play on words, but that is okay, not everyone can as aware as would be expected by myself. A very poor attempt there, 1720, at diversion.

            Just to remind you of the subject. The cheap(er) gas price in USA has been achieved by fracking. No question about that. The least well off benefit the most from that in USA. No question about that. Therefore I disagree with this “analysis.” It is nonsense. It does not add up, it is illogical and fails the common sense test. But, I suspect for some, adding up, logic and common sense will be abandoned and the excuse of “we” are all mad will be used to justify.

            • “Just to remind you of the subject. The cheap(er) gas price in USA has been achieved by fracking. No question about that. The least well off benefit the most from that in USA. No question about that. Therefore I disagree with this “analysis.” It is nonsense. “ (Martin)

              Martin thinks the above is the subject. Patient readers are reminded that the article headline is “ US fracking is an “environmental injustice with impacts not felt equally” – new analysis”. Again, relying upon the patience of readers, the subheading is “ Pregnant women, children, indigenous people, communities of colour and low-income neighbourhoods are disproportionately harmed by fracking, according to the latest review in the US of risks and damage.”

              Martin however sees the subject elsewhere, thereby facilitating a subtle non-sequitur – “Therefore…….!
              I think further comment is superfluous.And we missed Martin’s “play on words”! Touch of the Johnsons?

              ‘Discussion’ over from this contributor, but watch for the subtle if confusing broadside!

              • If low income neighbourhoods are assisted by cheap gas from fracking, then they are not disproportionately harmed, they are assisted!!

                It really is not that difficult, 1720. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.

                As far as children are concerned, then many are receiving extra funding for their education. Communities of colour should have some job opportunities, if the companies follow a diverse policy. Hopefully they do, if not, that is an issue with regard to employment policy not the process. Drilling over 1m wells creates a lot of jobs directly and indirectly. $60k/year for washing dishes, and a lot more for lorry driving, which would buy health care.

                Pregnant women are interesting. I recall one study which showed sexual activity near to fracking sites was increased. Now, I do not think that was anything to do with what was in the water, but likely to be disposable income spent on alcohol and hence, maybe, pregnancy. Perhaps looking at the impact of alcohol consumption upon pregnancy, which already has received much attention, needs some more?

                I see you are still hiding behind others for your own failings, 1720. And, you could not even attempt to explain your own suggestion.

                “Discussion over from this contributor”. Thank goodness. What has been achieved? Oh, an admission it is an individual, so that is progress.

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