A proposed study of people in northern Pennsylvania could help resolve a national debate about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick.
The study would look at detailed health histories on hundreds of thousands of people who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells.
If the study goes forward, it would be the first large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment of the health effects of gas production.
Living in the middle of a natural gas boom can be pretty unsettling. The area around the town of Silt, Colo., used to be the kind of sleepy rural place where the tweet of birds was the most you would hear. Now it's hard to make out the birds because of the rumbling of natural gas drilling rigs.
The land here is steep cliffs and valleys. But bare splotches of earth called well pads are all over the place.
"That's the one I'm worried about because it just went in," says Tim Ray.
The oil drilling boom along Colorado’s Front Range is generating a lot of tax revenue for cash-strapped governments. But it’s also putting a strain on state regulators whose job it is to make sure all the drilling and well sites aren’t polluting.
There are now more than 47,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, but the state employs just seventeen inspectors to keep tabs on them. One solution being floated is to allow local governments to hire their own inspectors to ease some of the workload. But it’s getting mixed reviews across the state.