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Sample text

This fact has been used to argue in favor of the safety of the process. , the Marcellus Shale in parts of New York State), direct interaction with aquifers could be a problem. Also, connections with natural faults and abandoned gas wells (tens of thousands of unknown and abandoned wells exist in New York6 and Pennsylvania) can bring fluids from the fracturing process into contact with an aquifer. In addition to potential aquifer contamination, surface spills of both hydraulic fracturing fluids and the toxic and radioactive substances brought up with the gas have been documented and have contaminated ponds and streams.

That is, if a link between drilling operations and public health cannot be proven definitively, then the link is rejected, effectively putting the burden of proof on the victim. 30 However, if we move away from the strict interpretation of the precautionary principle, we can begin to define the risks involved in large-scale gas and oil drilling and to assign the burden of proof for avoiding a certain level of harm. This will require careful scientific studies of the health effects of drilling operations.

Some environmentalists often invoke the “precautionary principle,” which states that if an action is suspected of causing harm, then the burden of proof is on the entity taking such action. In the case of the fossil fuel industry, the precautionary principle would suggest that this industry has the obligation to prove that its actions do not cause public harm. The fossil fuel industry, however, seems to have taken a page from the tobacco industry playbook. That is, if a link between drilling operations and public health cannot be proven definitively, then the link is rejected, effectively putting the burden of proof on the victim.

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