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PSR Position Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing

Adopted by the Board of Directors March 30, 2012

No single solution can meet our society's future energy needs. The answer lies instead in a family of diverse energy technologies that share a common thread.  Renewable energy technologies tap into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms.  Solutions to our future energy needs must not deplete our natural resources, destroy our environment or negatively impact human health.  As we transition from our current fossil fuel dependent energy policy the transition is guided by the same principles: Minimize impact on health and the environment  in our energy production and use.

In light of these concerns, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is focusing on the multiple threats to human health posed by the technologies and processes associated with hydraulic fracturing, also known as “hydrofracking” or “fracking,” used to extract natural gas and other fossil fuels from underground formations.  These threats to health include industrial scale water consumption and contamination; air pollution, particularly by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane; seismic effects, and the generation and management of large quantities of toxic liquid waste.  Long-term impacts on freshwater aquifers are a poorly understood potential threat to our limited drinking water supplies that requires a precautionary approach until impacts are known.

PSR supports a precautionary approach that includes a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing until such time as impartial federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency develop and implement enforceable rules that provide adequate protection for human health and the environment from fossil fuel extraction processes that use hydraulic fracturing.  

In order to achieve such protection, the oil and gas extraction industry must fully disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, the amount of waste generated by their operations, and the waste management procedures utilized for disposing of those wastes.  Furthermore, industry must promulgate and execute appropriate strategies to manage safely the threats to health that arise in the hydraulic fracturing process.  The costs of such health-protective measures are the costs of this business and should not be paid by the general public.

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