Retired Pennsylvania Workers: State Health Employees Silenced on Fracking

Two former state employees say the Department of Health told nurses not to return calls about health concerns over fracking.

Two retired state employees have said they were told not to respond to calls about drilling in the Marcellus Shale by their bosses. The former employees — Tammi Stuck, a retired nurse in Fayette County, and Marshall Deasy, who worked for the Bureau of Epidemiology — made allegations that Department of Health employees were told to keep silent on drilling.

Stuck says employees at state health centers around Pennsylvania received lists of “buzzwords” — fracking, gas, soil contamination — that they could not respond to questions about. Instead, they’d take down information and pass it along to a supervisor. Stuck says she didn’t know if calls were ever returned. While science is unclear on the effects of fracking on nearby residents, some studies show adverse health effects.

After a Department of Health consultant talked about drilling at a community meeting in 2011, Deasy says, Harrisburg officials told the consultant “that nobody’s going to be out discussing shale or drilling from the Department of Health.” Employees wishing to attend meetings now have to receive permission about a month in advance.

The state Department of Health disputes these claims, denying the existence of a list of buzzwords and said nurses weren’t instructed to leave calls about fracking unreturned.

[StateImpact Pennsylvania]