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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 4, 2014 01:54 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf and Sen. John T. Yudichak
To: All Senate members
Subject: Funding for natural gas drilling health research
We plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 790 which amends Act 13 of 2012, the omnibus amendments to the Oil and Gas Act, to include funding for a health research program. As you may recall, the revenue from the shale gas impact fee (over $225 million in 2013) is distributed to various state agencies, local governments, and other eligible entities. However, no money is allocated for studying the health effects of intensive natural gas drilling.

Our legislation would allocate $3 million annually from the shale gas impact fee to the Department of Health. The funds would be used to:

1) Conduct health services research to determine if health services are adequate in areas where drilling occurs. It would also include the collection and reporting of health data in areas of drilling and provide training in occupational and environmental medicine to health care providers; and
2) Conduct research on the effects of air quality on health and disease in areas where wells are drilled. The research shall examine impacts of short, intermediate and long-term exposure to air contaminant emissions from natural gas production has on respiratory-related hospital admissions, emergency room visits and premature deaths. To translate population studies to personalized medicine, a portion of these funds will be allocated to support research to identify biomarkers of exposure to determine susceptibility of disease.

The bill provides that the Department of Health shall partner or contract with other entities with established environmental health science research programs within this Commonwealth. Geisinger Health Systems, Guthrie Health, and Susquehanna Health have joined together to study the health effects of shale gas drilling. In addition, the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania is undertaking studies on the potential environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas drilling. Funding from the shale impact fee can be used to enhance these efforts and expand its scope.

Introduced as SB64