Healthy Homes: Re-Framing Natural Gas Infrastructure Impacts

By Leann Leiter, Environmental Health Fellow, Southwest PA Environmental Health Project and FracTracker Alliance

We believe that living in a home free from chemical emissions and conditions hazardous to health–having a healthy home–is a human right. Fracking and natural gas infrastructure (NGI) impacts this right, but those impacts look different depending upon where you call home.

For instance, an Ohio family took joy in raising their kids and cattle at their farmhouse, built in 1853 with crooked walls and no indoor bathrooms. When they leased land to fracking activity, however, the motor roar and  “beep, beep, beep” of heavy truck traffic kept them up all night, and a cow died after drinking a strange fluid flowing on the land during the cold of winter. They dedicated their retirement savings to moving and building a new home, only to soon after receive a compressor station as their neighbor – close enough to hear the engines at all hours and loud enough to make them dread even walking out to their mailbox.

During the upswing of a boom-and-bust cycle of the gas drilling in Greene County, Pennsylvania, the influx of outside workers and the high demand on rental housing resulted in one particular family being unable to secure an apartment. Without adequate housing, their children were temporarily taken from their custody.

In Maryland, the recently victory of a fracking ban has eliminated the threat of well pads and drilling rigs, but the state still hosts dangerous and damaging natural gas infrastructure (NGI). This NGI includes gas pipelines, like the one proposed to cut under the Potomac River and threaten the right to clean drinking water for 6 million. NGI in Maryland also includes shale gas-related truck traffic, compressor stations, and polluting natural gas fired power plants and new ones on the horizon that could violate residents’ civil rights. These and other NGI rely on gas from states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the extraction takes place.

The following article by Environmental Health Project and FracTracker Alliance’s Leann Leiter shares stories from households in fracked communities as a reminder that regardless of the place, natural gas infrastructure takes a toll on those who call that place home. This blog aims to put those household impacts, and the right to a healthy home, at the center of the ongoing fracking debate.

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