Press Release

Committee Leaders Concerned Potential Bias Could Influence HHS Study of Shale Gas Development and Harm Job Growth


11.30.12

Members Urge HHS to Adopt Rigorous, Scientific Approach in Evaluation of Hydraulic Fracturing


WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius concerning the Department’s role in the Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed its intention to undertake a broad study of potential health impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing and other shale gas development activities. Members are concerned ATSDR’s actions could jeopardize domestic natural gas production and job creation if the agency’s work is not based on sound scientific principles.

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) are urging HHS to adopt a rigorous, scientific approach in its evaluation of shale gas activities and to consult with state regulatory and public health officials.

In the letter to Sebelius, the members wrote, “The United States is experiencing an energy renaissance thanks to recent shale gas discoveries and the development of new energy production technologies. This natural gas boom has dramatically enhanced our nation’s energy portfolio, with the potential to transform our economy and create millions of jobs, all the while delivering affordable energy to American families. Despite the significant growth of natural gas development, we are greatly concerned that the scientific objectivity of the Department of Health and Human Services is being subverted and countless jobs could be in jeopardy. …

“Your Department could play a key role in deliberations of the Interagency Working Group, but we are quite concerned by recent actions taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and statements made by CDC officials related to shale gas development. As questions within CDC’s area of expertise arise before the Interagency Working Group, we expect that your Department will adopt an approach based on sound scientific principles, including scientific study and analyses unencumbered by preconceived notions, prejudice, or ideology; a robust peer review process; and conclusions informed by decades of State regulator expertise.”

Committee staff previously requested a briefing with CDC on September 12, 2012, to outline the committee’s concerns with ATSDR’s actions. However, the agency has yet to provide or schedule such a briefing, raising more red flags about ATSDR’s intentions.

The members continued, “The fact that the agency has not yet provided or scheduled the briefing – two months after it was first requested – raises significant concerns that the agency does not intend to include Congress, the states, or the public in a process that is of critical importance to and could have a lasting impact on our economy and job creation. We urge you and your staff to promptly provide a briefing for Committee staff so we may understand what CDC is doing, whether it is being done transparently, and if it is being held to high standards of scientific objectivity and validity.”

To view the full letter, click here.

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