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Environmentalist group says health registry needed

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm •  Published: August 18, 2014
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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration said Monday it has enhanced the state health department's handling of complaints involving natural-gas drilling, prompting environmentalists to renew their demand for more aggressive action.

Health Secretary Michael Wolf said steps recommended by a departmental working group include implementation of a written-letter response policy to better document correspondence between the department and people who file drilling-related health complaints.

Other changes include providing information to doctors about how to file environmental health complaints and making the department's website easier to use, he said.

"Protecting the public's health and ensuring that citizens and health care providers have access to accurate, timely and relevant information is a primary responsibility of the department and one that the governor and I take very seriously," Wolf said.

In July, six of the state's leading environmental groups called for an investigation into the department's handling of drilling complaints.

John Norbeck, vice president of PennFuture, said the changes announced Monday will promote transparency within the department but a statewide registry is essential for tracking environmental health threats and spotting trends early on.

It is "important that Pennsylvania try to get ahead of this from a public health standpoint," Norbeck said.

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