State Rep. Summer Lee wants county health department to halt a Braddock fracking well | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

State Rep. Summer Lee wants county health department to halt a Braddock fracking well

click to enlarge Summer Lee - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Summer Lee
Last week, state Rep. Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) sent a letter to Allegheny County Health Department saying the proposed natural-gas drilling well at the Edgar Thompson steel mill in Braddock would “endanger the public health and public safety” of much of her Mon Valley district.

Lee has been an opponent of fracking and a critic of environmental racism, a term that applies to the disproportionate pollution that typically saddles people of color in America.

“Allegheny County Health Department must protect the residents of the Mon Valley from this dangerous proposal,” Lee wrote in a letter. “These neighborhoods are already plagued by decades of violative industry practices that have caused some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the country, according to numerous medical reports. Fracking would present an additional environmental stressor for these communities to deal with.”

In March, hundreds of residents showed up to a meeting in Braddock put on by New Mexico-based Merrion Oil & Gas, which is proposing the fracking well. Many in the crowd opposed the well. PublicSource reported that Merrion Oil & Gas hopes to break ground on the fracking well in 2020 and that if completed will produce gas for 20-30 years.

Lee is hoping the county health department will take action against the proposed fracking well, which she says will be the most urban setting for a fracking well in Pennsylvania.

Her letter comes on the heels of a recent report published by environmental group PennEnvironment that shows the Allegheny County Health Department allowed 32 industrial facilities to operate without air quality permits. The Pittsburgh area has some of the worst air quality in the nation; and estimations show that the region has the fourth most air-pollution related deaths of any region in the U.S.

“We believe that a responsible health department would assert its responsibility in regulating air quality in Allegheny County by classifying this proposed fracking well as a modification of U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson facility,” Lee wrote. “Furthermore, we believe that a responsible health department would deny such a modification.”

Tonight, Aug. 20, Lee is hosting a public forum on local environmental issues at 6:30 p.m. at the Forest Hills Borough Building.

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