State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Lawmaker defends comments pinning higher rates of STDs on gas drillers

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 17, 2011 6:42 PM

A state lawmaker said he stands by his comments that workers at natural gas drilling sites are causing a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.


Democratic Representative Mike Sturla of Lancaster County wrote in an e-mail to a reporter that workers at well sites are spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk.” 


The House Republicans released a statement calling Sturla’s comments “misinformed hate-speech.” 


But Sturla said his words are corroborated by a report to the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission that recommends the state provide more health services to address the rise in STDs related to an influx of drilling activity.   


“That’s all I said,” said Sturla.  “I may have done it in a rather insensitive way, and if anyone was offended by the insensitivity, I apologize for that, but I won’t apologize for saying there’s higher STDs in those areas.  That’s a fact.”


Sturla paged through the report, submitted in May by the Troy Community Hospital in Bradford County.


“This is in the heart of the drilling area” said Sturla, as he read from the report.  “Other issues: an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.  One of the recommendations: increased Department of Health availability of services related to STDs and substance abuse.”


“I don’t make this stuff up,” said Sturla.  “Should we not have drilling in the state because of that?  No, but it’s one of those impacts that we need to deal with.  In the Marcellus Shale Commission report, it says we should deal with it.”


Sturla defended his comments during a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Marcellus Shale.  He said other industries bringing “thousands of people” into the state would also result in a rise in STDs.  


“It’s just you can’t whitewash it and say it doesn’t exist,” said Sturla.


Read an excerpt of Sturla’s original e-mailed comment on Capitol Ideas.  

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