For the first time, the public can view a comprehensive record of citizen complaints about oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. The investigative website Public Herald has scanned and published more than 9,000 complaints made by residents over 12 years to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection about conventional and unconventional drilling, or fracking.
“For the first time, that data is public — and it is mapped,” says Public Herald’s Melissa Troutman. “One of the issues that’s been of concern is that when there is a problem, there is no system to let other people in the area know that there’s been a water contamination issue, for instance. So now, people can go click on their county or township and see all the complaints that have occurred in their area.”
The mapped data also revealed one major trend: As unconventional gas development ramped up in the state, so did the number of citizen complaints.
“In the beginning — 2003, 2004 — there was a large number of conventional wells and very few complaints,” Troutman says. “Then, in about 2008, you can see conventional wells bottoming out and the rise of unconventional wells. The increase in complaints almost mirrors the increase in unconventional wells.”
Troutman says the average number of complaints per well has doubled since 2011 — increasing from one complaint per well to an average of two per well in 2015-2016. She says what’s behind that increase, however, still needs more study.
You can find a link to the database of public complaints at Public Herald’s website.