As a resident of Myersville, I was dismayed to read Delegate Kathy Afzali’s recent letter to her constituents where she wrote that she has “heard some incredibly wacky testimony ... but that this one takes the cake.” She then proceeds to minimize the potential negative effects of fracking, stating that environmentalists claim “that fracking causes social problems like STD’s. No kidding!!!! OMG!”
Well, to use Afzali’s own words: “OMG.”
If the only information Afzali was able to discern from the data presented in the Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson University economic study, the University of Maryland public health report or the testimony of physicians, scientists and experts is that fracking may cause an increase in STDs, then I question how well she has familiarized herself with the issue.
But let’s not minimize “social problems.” Those social problems are problems that directly impact the public health, safety and well-being of the community at large. And, to put it another way, those “social problems” often become taxpayer problems as health, education and public safety issues need to be addressed and funded.
For example, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers noted the staggering economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment. They found that environmentally induced childhood disease cost approximately $76.6 billion in 2008. If fracking were permitted in Maryland, the University of Maryland health report found a high likelihood of negative public health impacts from air pollution. They also found a high likelihood of negative public health impacts with regard to health care infrastructure, occupational health and social determinants of health. (Yes, that includes things like STDs, which can be passed on unknowingly and which can lead to infertility.)
Further, the authors of the Best Management Practices report, which serves as the basis for the proposed regulations, state that little data was available during the time the study was undertaken. In fact, roughly three-fourths of the peer-reviewed studies of shale gas development impacts were done after that report was completed. The Frederick News-Post published an excellent editorial on the issue of fracking on Feb. 12.
Afzali directs us to a House Republican Caucus video promising we will “get a good laugh.” I would note that the “environmentalist” providing testimony in that video is David Vanko, Ph.D., dean, Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, Towson University, and chairman of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission. I am appalled that he is being demeaned in such a way.
Finally, Afzali represents Myersville, a town that now deals with infrastructure related to fracking, specifically a 16,000-horsepower natural gas compressor station. A station that, two weeks after it went online in November, is being considered to double the amount of compression. Myersville deals with the pollution and negative effects from the build-out of fracking. We don’t find this funny at all, Delegate Afzali.
Ann M. Nau
writes from Myersville and is a member of Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community.