Frac’ing harms health. Ron Gulla: “The truth has to come out and the law firms are the ones that really need to be held accountable because the law firms are making a lot of money representing the industry and covering all the lies up. … This is organized crime, that’s what this is.”

Exclusive: For Decades He Railed Against Fracking — Now His Wife Has a Type of Cancer Linked to Fracking Chemicals, For two decades, Ron Gulla has been speaking out about how fracking is harmful to human health. Last year, Gulla’s wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia — a condition that has been linked to exposure to toxic fracking chemicals by Suzanne Burdick, Ph.D., June 29, 2023, The Defender, Children’s Health Defense

ron gulla fracking chemicals cancer feature

Gulla’s farm photo credit: Marcellus Air

For two decades, Ron Gulla has been speaking out about how fracking is harmful to human health.

Last year, Gulla’s wife Laurel was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia, a condition that has been linked to exposure to toxic fracking chemicals, he said.

“I’ve been documenting this for two decades and now it’s in my house,” Gulla told The Defender. “I prayed to God it wouldn’t happen. It did. I don’t know if my wife is going to survive. Now what’s going to happen to my two kids? I don’t know. My wife is at the Mayo Clinic right now getting more chemotherapy.”

Gulla was the second property owner in Pennsylvania to have horizontal gas well drilling done — from 2005 to 2007 — on his farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh.

The 67-year-old father and husband also was one of the first to speak out against fracking in Pennsylvania after his farm was contaminated by natural gas producer Range Resources.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, extracts natural oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep and shallow (including directly into community drinking water supplies, as proven by Encana/Ovintiv data on file with AER) wells and injecting huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure.

Research shows that fracking chemicals can wind up in drinking water and harm human health.

Four gas wells were drilled on Gulla’s farm. Gulla — who had worked for a heavy equipment company and spent several years working in the oil and gas industry — said the lease he signed in 2002 that granted Range Resources permission to drill the wells stated the well would be vertical wells — yet two of the four were drilled horizontally.

While both vertical and horizontal wells are dangerous, Gulla said, horizontally drilled wells may go farther — “they can go out miles,” he said — and the fracks can come up to the surface, exposing toxic chemicals to the topsoil and waterways.

The drillers used mill slag — a byproduct of steel manufacturing — to build a road to access one of the rigs. When it rained, water running off the road mixed with the slag and ran into the Gulla family’s water well.

That mill slag is toxic,” Gulla told CitizenVox in 2019. “There’s arsenic in it, there’s pieces of railroad tie in it, which has creosote [a toxic substance]. It has metal in it and plastic and all kinds of garbage. If you go and buy slag, it tells you right there on the back of it, don’t breathe the dust. It’s bad stuff.”

Gulla also saw fracking wastewater from well pads — the industrial sites where the drilling workers operated the rigs — filled with toxic chemicals flowing directly onto the soil and into a stream.

He said he saw vegetation in the fish pond downhill from the well pads turn yellow and die. Then he noticed fish died — so did deer and neighboring cattle.

Compressor stations — which compress natural gas for pipeline transport — emit known toxins like benzene and toluene.

And drilling operations “always have to drill through the water aquifer,” Gulla told The Defender.

“So it doesn’t matter what they’re drilling for, oil or gas, they always disrupt your water aquifer because you have to drill through it. And then they case it off [but] it doesn’t mean because they cased it off that they still didn’t contaminate it.”

“One of the major culprits of acute myeloid leukemia is exposure to benzene,” Gulla said.

A recent study in Environmental Pollution — the first to examine the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts fracking from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act — reported that from 2014 through 2021, 62-73% of reported fracking jobs each year used at least one chemical categorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act as harmful to human health and the environment.

The chemicals include carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde and arsenic; possible carcinogens, such as acrylamide and naphthaleneand other frac chemicals found by the regulator in my water after Encana/Ovintiv illegally frac’d the drinking water aquifers; and ethylene glycol, which can damage the kidneys, nerves and respiratory system.

According to the study, the fracking industry reported using at least 250 million pounds of ethylene glycol, 10 million pounds of naphthalene, 7.5 million pounds of benzene, 4.6 million pounds of acrylamide, 1.8 million pounds of formaldehyde, and 590 pounds of arsenic from 2014 to 2021.

Gulla pointed out that benzene is also in the exhaust from diesel engines.

“We had more diesel engines on our property [because of the fracking]. We had more trucks going up and down the driveway, which was 30 yards away from our house.”

“I kept digging in and reading and researching and asking more questions,” Gulla said. “Then I found out they were exempt from everything. When I found out they were exempt from [the] Clean Air [Act], I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’”

“Long story short, the benzene from all the diesel fumes is just astronomical. The whole valley stunk. Same here.And I remember telling my wife, ‘Look, I’m going to work. Get outta here with the kids. Don’t stay here.’”

In 2019, Gulla relocated his family to Iowa to get away from the fracking pollution.

The Canon-McMillan School District in Washington County, which his children — now ages 16 and 18 — attended prior to relocating, saw six rare Ewing sarcoma cancer cases in a decade, including two diagnosed in 2018.

Washington County, Pennsylvania, is “one of the state’s most heavily fracked regions.”

Gulla said, “When they were in middle school, I would ask them, ‘Hey do you see any kids with cancer? You hear about any kids having cancer?’ And they would tell me, ‘Yeah, Dad, there’s so-and-so and so-and-so …”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Human Toll” project in 2019 was able to identify 17 cases of cancer — including Ewing sarcoma — among the district’s students and alumni. Four of those were fatal.

‘If it were safe and benign, they wouldn’t have the exemptions’

Gulla said the gas and oil industries were “very smart about all this” by working with government officials to ensure they wouldn’t be held accountable to environmental laws.

“They had us sign leases back in 2002,” he said. “Well, [former President George W. ] Bush and [former Vice President Dick] Cheney were getting all of the exemptions in place for 2005, for the new energy policy that the industrymen put together.”

Cheney — who formerly served as the CEO of Halliburton, a company that patented fracking technologies in the 1940s and is still one of the top suppliers of fracking fluids in the world — and Bush endorsed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Gulla said:

“And here they [the oil and gas companies] are exempt from [the] Clean Air [Act], Clean Water [Act], Safe Drinking Water [Act], the Right-to-Know [Act], the Superfund Act — which is hazardous cleanup — [and] TRI: Toxic Release Inventory.

“Those were all the red flags. They never told the landowners, the landman or woman, never said a word about them being exempt from anything. So liability is left upon the landowner and the community.

“Do you think I would’ve signed a lease if I’d known that they were exempt from everything?”

“If it were safe and benign, they wouldn’t have the exemptions,” Gulla said. “They’re [the oil and gas drilling industry] the only industry with those exemptions. They know there were problems. They know that they would create a lot of havoc and the lawyers are working with them and covering it all up.”

“The truth has to come out and the law firms are the ones that really need to be held accountable because the law firms are making a lot of money representing the industry and covering all the lies up,” Gulla said.

Gulla said the gas industry in 2013 hosted a series of summit meetings at the Omni William Penn historic hotel in downtown Pittsburgh “for the law firms and the real estate companies.”

“Why would they do that?” he said. “This is RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations]. This is organized crime, that’s what this is.”

“As I’ve told many, many people,” Gulla said, “if I were lying, do you think Range Resources wouldn’t have sued me for slander?”

Refer also to:

2006: Encana/Ovintiv chemicals, pallets and pallets full on frac sites at Rosebud (Encana VP promised my community they only frac’d with air, pure as the air we breath):

2012: Health Ramifications of Fracking from a Nurse’s View

2014: Compendium 1

2014: Compendium 2

… Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University, said,

“In 2008, when New York State first declared a moratorium on fracking, only six peer-reviewed papers on the health and environmental impacts had been published. Now there are more than 400, and the vast majority show a clear and present danger. What’s more, many problems are unfixable by regulations of any kind. It was a wise governor who said ‘wait’ in 2008. And it is wise to continue to wait.”

2015: Compendium 3

… Benzene has been detected in the urine of wellpad workers in Colorado and Wyoming. …

2016: Compendium 4.0 Released, More than 900 Studies Showing Overwhelming Harms Caused by Unconventional Oil & Gas Development. Doctors Call for Halt to Fracking

2018: Compendium 5: ‘The Harms of Fracking’: New Report Details Increased Risks of Asthma, Birth Defects and Cancer. Dr. Sandra Steingraber: “Fracking is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” Dr. Pouné Saberi: “There is a code of silence….” Workers rarely report injuries or hazards, for fear of losing their jobs.

2019: Frac’ing is not safe, it does not improve the environment! Compendium 6 Released: Review by doctors & scientists of more than 1,700 references conclude frac industry poses threat to air, water, climate and human health

2020: A decade of science on frac harms – Compendium 7 released: “The data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks” while regulators in Canada continue to DEregulate to enable the endless **known** harms. Canadian frac-harmed Vicky Simlik: “Because there is no such thing as a kind & gentle frac’ it needs to be banned period.”

2022: Frac Science Compendium 8 – Sandra Steingraber & Carmi Orenstein: “The more we learn about fracking…the worse it looks. Fracking is a villain, not a hero….” (R. Kennedy Jr., Sierra Club, other NGOs pimped frac’ing for polluters)

2022: Compendium 8 on Harms of Frac’ing & Associated Infrastructure: “The only method of mitigating its grave threats to public health and the climate is a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking.” No evidence was found showing “fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which human health depends.”

2023 October: Compendium 9 to be released.

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