Location: 368A Heady
Abstract: Widespread hydraulic fracturing of shale formations has yielded a range of economic and environmental benefits. There are, however, various costs associated with shale gas development (SGD) that remain uncertain. This paper looks to SGD operations in Pennsylvania to assess the magnitude of drinking water impacts and whether there exists health risks associated with SGD through this medium. Using the universe of birth records in Pennsylvania from 2003-2015 and all ground water-based Community Water System (CWS) drinking water contaminant measurements between 2011-2015, we investigate this question by building a novel data set that links gas well activity to infant health and public drinking water outcomes based on a water system's source location. This is the first study to examine the impacts of SGD on public drinking water quality and to identify the health impacts of SGD through the specific mechanism of water. Our difference-in-differences models find consistent evidence of an effect of shale gas development on both drinking water quality and infant health outcomes. The results are robust to the inclusion of various correlated threats that can threaten identification of impacts, fixed effects, and placebo tests. Together, our paper informs an important question of whether SGD affects reproductive health through the mechanism of drinking water. A better understanding of these potential external costs has important implications for regulatory policy and is crucial for weighing the costs of such operations against their economic and environmental benefits.
Contact Person: Wendong Zhang