Marcellus shale development doesn’t affect mortality rates

By Staff | December 14, 2017

Mortality rates for the six Pennsylvania counties with the greatest amount natural gas development in the Marcellus shale play have declined or remained stable, according to a new report commissioned by Energy in Depth (EID).

The report analyzes Pennsylvania Department of Health data for the state as a whole and the counties of Bradford, Greene, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga and Washington from 2000 to 2014. The counties were chosen because of the level of Marcellus activity they have seen—more than 900 wells in each—since 2004.

"In all six counties that had the highest development activity in Pennsylvania, the death rates declined or remained stable despite a significant increase in the elderly population,” said study author Susan Mickley, a health research consultant.

“This indicates that health and longevity did not decline as some have said would happen,” she continued, “and in fact, longevity increased as the average household income and employment in these counties improved. None of the categories saw a negative impact on health from natural gas resource development."

The data’s source is the Pennsylvania State Health Department, which is part of the National Center for Disease Control reporting system. Pennsylvania has a comprehensive database and a decades-long history of reporting health data, providing a consistent, reliable and sanctioned independent database.

Key findings from the report include:

•           "There was no identifiable impact on death rates in the six counties attributable to the introduction of unconventional oil and gas development. In fact, the top Marcellus counties experienced declines in mortality rates in most of the indices."

•           "Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in infant mortality in the top Marcellus counties, as the mortality rate significantly declined (improved), even surpassing the improvement of the state."

•           "Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in deaths related to chronic lower respiratory disease (including asthma) in the top Marcellus counties, as the overall chronic lower respiratory disease mortality rate declined (improved) or was variable for the six-county area. The only exception was Greene County where the increased mortality rate was consistent with the increase in the elderly population."

•           "During the period that unconventional gas development was introduced to these counties, the trends reflected a positive economic change in the area. Therefore, any increases in the death rates in the top Marcellus counties cannot be associated with negative changes to the economic viability of the population."

•           "Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in deaths related to cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, influenza or pneumonia, nephritis or nephrotic syndrome, or septicemia in the top Marcellus counties, as the mortality rates significantly declined (improved)."

EID was launched in 2009 by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) as a research, education and public outreach campaign focused on providing factual information on responsibly developing America’s onshore energy resources.