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URMC researcher gets grant to study health effects of fracking

A University of Rochester Medical Center researcher has won a $1.5 million grant to study health effects of fracking.

Department of Public Health Sciences assistant professor Elaine Hill won the National Institutes of Health grant to launch a multi-front investigation of the controversial gas-and-oil drilling method.

Properly called hydraulic fracturing, the method involves the injection of highly pressurized chemical-laced water into drilling sites to release gas or oil trapped in rocks.

Proponents claim the method is a safe, cost-effective way to extract resources that would otherwise not be. Opponents see fracking as more likely to pollute local water supplies than not.

After delaying a decision for some two years, New York banned fracking in a decision that was hailed by environmentalists but booed by Southern Tier landowners hoping to see windfall profits from selling drilling rights.   

Hill plans to investigate what adverse health effects fracking might have on people living near wells as weigh the potential dangers the method poses against the economic boons it might bring.

She won the NIH grant under the agency’s Director’s Early Independence Award, a program meant to fund high-risk, high-reward projects and help kick start young scientists’ careers.

With the award, Hill said, “I will be able to study a topic in desperate need of scientific examination.”
(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

One comment

  1. The characterization of Fracking concerns in this article are very misleading—which has been a continual problem throughout the Fracking debate in New York since it began over seven years ago.

    New York State officially banned Fracking on June 29, 2015. This has led to a big backlash from those who wanted New Yorkers and landowners to profit from this dangerous, fossil fuel extraction process.

    The New York ban hinged on Fracking’s danger to our water and public health. But a far more wider net has been thrown over the Fracking process—which is still being debated around the world.

    Fracking not only potentially endangers our water and public health, it creates methane leaks which warm the planet; it creates a massive fossil fuel infrastructure that challenges our ability to create a more healthier, and better local job-producing renewable energy infrastructure.

    We don’t need more Fracking studies, there are a zillion of these studies that anyone can Google. What we need is a change of attitude about how we use energy—which we now know is not only an economic issue, it is a moral issue.

    Using more fossil fuels and continuing to build more fossil fuel infrastructure as our planet warms beyond dangerous greenhouse gas emission levels is the wrong way to go that this pivotal time in history.

    The COP21 Paris Climate Conference is coming up soon, where the entire world community is trying to keep greenhouse gas levels at a sustainable level. Folks from around the world are pressing their leaders to do the right thing. The right thing is not to be drilling for more fossil fuels.

    Here is the goal of the Global Climate March “This will be our message as we take to the streets on 28-29 November: Keep fossil fuels in the ground — really, just stop digging and drilling — and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.” Global Climate March http://350.org/global-climate-march

    Even if the results of the particular study in this article ‘proves’ Fracking doesn’t harm public health and doesn’t poses threats for economic boons and busts, there are already many, many studies that will prove just the opposite.

    Fracking should end at New York’s door, not because of any one study; Fracking should end because fossil fuels are financially unsound and they produce more greenhouse gas emissions, instead of reducing them. Not to mention a myriad of other issues—the damage to public transportation infrastructure due to heavy truck traffic, property rights, earthquakes (backed by several studies), and much more.

    Check the studies, the news, and the concerns about Fracking in New York State here. http://rochesterenvironment.com/Fracking%20or%20hydrofracking%20and%20Rochester%20NY.htm

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