News Alert: Want A Better Economy, Better Health? Get Fracking!

natural gas now - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

A report commissioned by Energy In Depth documents economic growth is the central factor in achieving good health and fracking helps deliver that growth.

I served, for several years, on the board of our local hospital, the last five as chair. It was a wonderful experience and one where I learned a great deal about what makes for good health, as we were exposed to regular updates on community health factors. One of things we learned was the role of a healthy economy in achieving good health. That relationship was stated, with much clarity, in a 2005 International Journal of Epidemiology article by M. Harvey Brenner entitled “Economic Growth Is the Basis of Mortality Rate Decline in the 20th Century.” The title, in fact, says it all.

Energy In Depth recently commissioned a report that takes this a step further by examining the role of gas drilling and fracking in producing this economic growth within parts of Pennsylvania. It studies how such growth has affected community health, vis-a-vis mortality rates, in those areas. Readers will not be surprised to learn “the top Marcellus counties experienced declines in mortality rates in most of the indices.”


Nicole Jacobs at Energy In Depth has put together a succinct summary of the report. It’s titled “Health and Well-ness: Analysis of Key Public Health Indicators in Six of the Most Heavily Drilled Marcellus Shale Counties in Pennsylvania.” The full report is authored by Susan Mickley, a friend and graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine/Epidemiology and Public Health with a career in public health needs assessment and long-range planning. She used Pennsylvania Department of Health data to draw her conclusions and here are some of her key findings (emphasis added):

The two primary economic indicators for the working population in the top Marcellus counties show that the workforce did better than the state workforce on all counts. Per capita income growth (Figure 6) was significantly higher than the state except for Tioga County, which was only slightly higher. The unemployment growth rate (Figure 7) also was significantly better than the state. Favorable economic indicators positively influence health outcomes, as the population can afford more health insurance, more preventative care, dental care, medical equipment, prescriptions and insurance from their employment.


Figure 11 shows that the top Marcellus counties had greater improvement in the infant mortality rate than Pennsylvania as a whole. This is even more significant given the 2000 rate started higher than the Pennsylvania rate and the 2014 rate was lower in the top Marcellus counties than for the state.


Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD) is a disease category predominately su ered by the elderly, therefore the death rate for CLRD would be expected to be highly influenced by an area’s elderly population and percentage of elderly-to-total population…

The six-county area is consistently higher than the state from 2000-2014, which is in line with their higher elderly populations…

Three of the six shale counties — Bradford, Lycoming and Susquehanna— experienced significant declines in the CLRD death rates between 2009 and 2014. Their rates were almost at or below the national rate by 2014.


As Figure 16 shows, cancer mortality rates remained steady or declined in the six top Marcellus counties from 2000-2014.


The following graph (Figure 18) of the six-county area and Pennsylvania trends in age-adjusted heart disease death rates shows a significant reduction in deaths due to heart disease.


Stroke is the primary cause of death in the cerebrovascular disease category….

As Figure 19 shows, death rates due to CD declined significantly for the state and the top Marcellus counties despite the increase in the elderly population.


The CDC lists kidney disease as the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, impacting more than 20 million adults or 10 percent of the U.S. adult population…

Nephritis/nephrotic syndrome mortality rates (Figure 21) declined in all of the top Marcellus counties and the state, except for a slight overall increase in Greene County. Except for Greene County, all counties and the state were at or below 15 deaths per 100,000 by 2014, while all but one was at or above 15 deaths per 100,000 in 2000. There was an overall decline in the nephritis/nephrotic syndrome mortality rate for the top Marcellus counties, despite the large increase in the elderly population.

Pretty revealing isn’t it?

Which takes us back to the point of beginning:


 Funny how that works, huh?

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12 thoughts on “News Alert: Want A Better Economy, Better Health? Get Fracking!

    • That a good community economy is good for community’s health is fairly obvious and undisputed. The recent research pointing to lower mortality rates interestingly avoids any discussion of morbidity rates and rates of maternity/birth health issues. Ignoring the health impacts of unconventional gas development (UGD) remains a danger for all. With almost a decade of robust research available and the Act 13 gag order lifted in Pennsylvania, I sincerely wish that health professionals in shale communities would study available research on the potential health impacts of UGD and report on issues that relate both where they are and where they are not seeing the associated health impacts. As a start, I am happy to help medical professionals find resources and the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has a user-friendly health registry.

  1. “A report commissioned by Energy In Depth”

    The industry that will profit wrote the report. EID was created to combat regulation with astroturf data.

    • I’m pretty sure Mr. Shepstone will tell you that I have been particularly hard on bogus and self-serving studies on this site and I do have a few quibbles with this one. But even if you don’t accept that fracking and gas development was the cause of the economic improvement in the study area, the evidence is clear that health outcomes have improved there. This is counter to one of the basic beliefs of the anti-gas movement that health in these areas would be adversely affected by fracking both in the short and long term.

  2. Read report which is backed with facts. As Carl Sandberg wrote, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” The emotional and “pounding at the table” are getting old and tired. Read Penn State’s report on the impact for the last ten years on the Susquehanna River Basin which was presented at the last Upper Delaware Council meeting. The fact is the impact from drilling is so small there have been NO incidents from fracking in 2016 and 2017. And before that 39 well problems which were all corrected out of 10,000 wells.

  3. This is not good news: a peer-reviewed journal called Scientific Advances just came out with a study that says fracking hurts unborn children. Low birth weight and other health impacts if you live within two miles of a well (that’s a lot of us!). Specifically looked at Pennsylvania. Here is the link to the study, but its getting lots of news coverage, too.

    • I followed your link and here are some quotes from the Concluding Remarks on p. 6:

      “The superior data available in Pennsylvania allow us to compare the estimated number of births exposed to the actual number of infants exposed to fracking during gestation. This comparison suggests that the assumption of a uniform distribution of births across counties leads to substantial overestimates of the number of infants born within 1 km of an active well site that was fractured; presumably, this is because fracking occurs in less populated parts of counties where there are fewer births per square kilometer.”

      “A limitation of our study is that given the nature of the available data, we are constrained to focus on potential exposure to pollution (which is determined by the mother’s residential location) rather than actual exposure that could be measured with personal monitoring devices.”

      “A second limitation of our study is that even starting with the whole population of Pennsylvania births, we end up with a relatively small sample of children who were potentially exposed to fracking; …”

      “A third caveat is that the pathway of exposure was not a subject of our study and is not known with certainty.”

      I live in a township in the Southern Tier of NY. There are 3,000 people spread out over 47 sq. mi., but 1,000 of them live in a village of 1 sq. mi. Do you think that any measure of social activity is accurate assuming uniform population distribution when the details vary so widely from such an average?

      Now added to the small sample population, you assume the potential of exposure and don’t know how it got to the mothers. Was there any attempt to control for how many of the target population living in villages and cities and water or air quality there? What about the effects of smoking, alcohol or drugs, all causes of low birth weights, or did you assume “uniform distribution” for everything.

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