Critics of hydraulic fracturing no longer limit their complaints to alleged damage to air and water quality. They are now claiming that fracking causes bigger problems: sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution, hard drug use and sex crimes.
Each of these claims is hotly contested by the energy industry.
“While critics accuse frackers of fouling air, drinking water, and farmland with swamp gas and carcinogens; prostitution, methamphetamine, and sexual crime have stalked drilling operations,” reports Vice magazine.
“Violence against women in fracking boomtowns in North Dakota and Montana has increased so sharply that the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced in June that it plans to spend half a million dollars investigating the correlation,” Vice reports.
Vice’s Peter Rugh sites a study by the environmental group Food and Water Watch — which wants to ban fracking — claiming that cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia have shot up 32.4 percent in Pennsylvania counties where fracking operations take place.
“We’ve found that fracking brought a host of social costs to communities where drilling has begun,” said Emily Wurth of Food and Water Watch. “These are the real costs of fracking that are never discussed.”
Vice also reports that the use of meth is on the rise in fracking boom areas.
“In rural Colorado, where well pads have risen like pustules upon the jagged landscape, crimes tied to the narcotic have skyrocketed to double the national average,” Vice reports, citing an NPR article from 2007.
However, the Food and Water Watch study came under fire for its failure to control for STD increases in the fracked areas.
“Without controlling for the population, it could be that the percentage of these cases, while increasing, is increasing at a smaller rate than the population of young people!” Matthew Rousu, an economics professor at Susquehanna University noted.
“It could be that fracked counties actually have a lower [sexually transmitted infaction to population] rate!” Rousu added. “Further, what does a 62% increase mean? It could mean three more people, right? Or does that mean an additional 0.02% of the overall population? The report doesn’t explain.”
The study uses similarly misleading figures when talking about things like increases in truck crashes.
“Related to this, the authors of this study use actual numbers at times (reporting on driving crashes), but only display the percentages at other times (STIs), “Rousu adds. “This weakens their credibility.”