Drilling, fracking, and expansion of natural gas all require a massive buildout of infrastructure including pipelines and compressor stations. This fracking infrastructure poses serious public health and environmental risks and harms, jeopardizing the well being of people and communities all throughout the state. Pipelines and compressor stations emit significant air pollutants including dangerous toxins and carcinogens. There are numerous instances of explosions and fires resulting from pipeline disasters, as well as leaks, spills, and water contamination incidents. For instance:
“A man has been taken to the hospital with serious burns after a 30-inch interstate natural gas transmission pipeline exploded next to his home in Westmoreland County. About a dozen homes have been evacuated and a quarter mile evacuation zone remains in place. Video from the scene shows a raging fire lighting up the early morning sky. First responders on the scene say the man did not come in direct contact with the flames, but it was the intense heat that scorched him and his home.”
Gas Line Explosion Causes Inferno in Pennsylvania
A growing body of studies demonstrates the many harms of fracking infrastructure. Physicians for Social Responsibility provides a comprehensive summary of the evidence in the
“Compressor stations and pipelines are major sources of air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, constituting potential health risks to those living nearby while offering no offsetting economic benefits. Instead, they are associated with loss of tax revenue and economic development for the communities where they are sited and traverse.”
Some recent studies about the risks and harms of pipelines and compressor stations include:
- A 2017 study found that compressors emitted highly variable plumes of methane that spread downwind and were measurable a full mile away at levels that could expose nearby residents, especially during temperature inversions.
- A 2016 investigation found that Pipeline accidents over the past 30 years have resulted in 548 deaths, more than 2,500 injuries, and over $8.5 billion in damages.
- In 2016, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a report on air quality near a natural gas compressor station in Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, finding levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at levels that can damage human health in those with long-term exposure.
Find many more studies about the harms of drilling and fracking infrastructure here
Read the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project’s “Summary on Compressor Stations and Health Impacts
Making matters worse, some new infrastructure proposals are especially dangerous, like the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids (NGL) Pipeline. They pose a heightened safety threat given that NGLs are heavier than methane and hug the ground when they leak, posing greater risk of explosion.
Additionally, Pennsylvania is moving to expand dramatically the number of natural gas power plants, processing plants, and cracker plants. The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved 48 new natural gas power plants since January 2014. These power plants entail a dangerous, toxic spider web of pipelines and compressor stations, posing serious risks and harms to residents all throughout Pennsylvania from air pollution, water contamination, leaks, spills, explosions, and other problems.