Pennsylvania's Poor More Likely to Live Near Fracking Wells

  • Flaring at a Scott Township fracking well. Photo: WCN 24/7 via Flickr Creative Commons

May 15, 2015

Fracking wells in Pennsylvania are disproportionately located in poor, rural communities. That's according to a new study by Clark University in Massachusetts.

Clark researcher Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger says fracking wells cause air and water pollution, and potentially harm human health. She used Geographic Information Sciences, or GIS, to find out who lives near these wells.

“So it’s a very simple concept. If you’re close, then you’re more exposed to the negative effects of this industry.”

Her team mapped 6000 wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Then they looked at demographics near these sites. She says no matter how they estimated proximity to the wells, the results were the same.

“The percent of people below poverty level was always higher in the areas that are close to the wells.”

She says that was especially true in Pennsylvania. The findings are published in the journal Applied Geography.

Joe Massaro is with an industry group Energy in Depth. In an email, he says oil and gas companies are helping poor Pennsylvania communities, by creating good-paying jobs and paying state taxes.