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Are People Living Near Fracking Sites Getting Sick?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center Page and our Health Issues Page.

On April 11,Colorado State Rep. Joann Ginal's (D-Fort Collins) House Bill 1275 was heard, and died, in committee in the Colorado State Legislature. Rep Ginal's bill asked and proposed to answer a very honest and simple question, "Are people living near oil and gas drilling and fracking getting sicker than people who don't?" And, the bill would have provided that information to the public in a short timeframe.

Clean Water Action has a door-to-door campaign in the Denver metro area and across the northern Front Range where fracking is moving into suburban neighborhoods. We hear a lot of stories on people's doorsteps and we hear lots of stories from our colleagues involved in this issue. The stories we hear are similar to those reported in the newspaper and offered as testimony at recent meetings of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission-people believe they are getting sick because of drilling and fracking near their homes, schools and neighborhoods.

The most common health complaints and concerns from people worrying about oil and gas drilling and fracking are neurological (headaches, dizziness), respiratory (cough, nose bleeds) and gastro-intestinal (stomach aches, diarrhea). In addition, people have concerns about long-term disease rates of exposure to cancer-causing fracking chemicals in the air and water. We also hear stories about people simply moving out of their homes and neighborhoods when fracking moves in.

And so Rep. Ginal's bill, which would have created and paid for a public health report on this topic, would seem to address a simple question in a short timeframe that is on the minds of tens-of-thousands of Colorado families across the Front Range. Nearly two dozen people testified in favor of the bill-some were medical professionals, including the Boulder County Health Dept., others were citizens who had experienced health issues as a result of drilling and fracking, and others were retired professional scientists.

What was striking, however, was who testified against the bill. First, was the oil and gas industry, whose testimony surprised no one. Of course, they have a vested financial interest in making sure the information Rep. Ginal hoped to gather would not be gathered or become public in the short term. After all, if people living near drilling and fracking are getting sicker, what might ensue? More local bans? More zoning regulations? A statewide ban?

Second, and very striking, was testimony from Dr. Chris Urbina, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). That's right-the person who is in charge of ensuring that the Colorado public and environment is protected and healthy testified against a bill that would have let the public know if people living near drilling and fracking are getting sicker.


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