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Study: More drilling could lead to more crime, traffic deaths and STDs

Six Pennsylvania counties with a high number of Marcellus shale drilling operations had more violent crime, traffic fatalities and, in some cases, sexually transmitted diseases than counties with less drilling, a newly released study determined.

Although they experienced employment gains, those counties also saw rent prices increase while their populations had no noticeable growth, according to “The Shale Tipping Point” report by the Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center working as the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative.

However, the study did not just focus on Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2012. It also looked at the shale drilling impact on West Virginia and Ohio communities with high-, moderate- and low-level drilling numbers. Data concerning Washington, Greene, Tioga, Lycoming, Bradford and Susquehanna counties could provide Beaver County with a glimpse into its possible future if drilling increases or the county is flooded with thousands of out-of-state workers coming to construct Shell Chemical’s proposed ethane cracker plant.

The study found that for the six high-drilling Pennsylvania counties, or those with at least 400 wells drilled:

–Violent crime increased nearly 18 percent and property crime almost 11 percent

–Drug abuse cases increased by half and drunken driving cases rose 65 percent

–Traffic fatalities involving trucks increased almost 28 percent

Related: North Dakota getting younger means more crime

Increases in sexually transmitted diseases occur “where transient workers, mostly young men, enter a new town en masse to work in the gas (or related) industries,” the report said.

In Tioga County, which borders New York in north-central Pennsylvania, Chlamydia rates rose 93 percent between 2005 and 2012 compared to 63 percent in rural counties without drilling, while Gonorrhea rates increased by 46 percent compared to 37 percent statewide.

Data for Greene County showed that Chlamydia rates rose 119 percent between 2005 and 2012 and Gonorrhea rates increased 266 percent, the study said.

Employment in the mining and natural resources industries in the six high-drilling counties rose by 138 percent (7,121 jobs) in the eight-year period, compared to a decline of 2 percent between 1998 and 2005. Total employment in those counties grew 10 percent, or about 19,000 jobs.

The six high-drilling counties had population increases of just 0.4 percent, or slightly more than 2,000 people between 2005 and 2012, but that was an improvement over the 0.3 percent decline during the previous seven years.

High-drilling counties saw rent costs increase for all levels of renters, but renters’ incomes significantly increased for only renters in the top level. Consequently, lower income renters could be priced out of housing markets, the study’s authors warned.

The study concluded that those counties with enough drilling to affect employment and income statistics are “likely to be faced with social challenges,” too.

“Communities with shale resources where drilling has not yet occurred should understand this trade-off so that they may weigh their options in an informed way and prepare for the social impacts if drilling is undertaken,” the study said.

This article was written by J.D. Prose from Beaver County Times, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.