The Pennsylvania Department of Health is being accused by two former employees who claim that the department placed gag orders on it employees preventing them from talking about fracking to concerned residents.

The accusations were made by retired employees Tammi Stuck, a community health nurse, and Marshall Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology. According to Stuck and Deasy, the department prevented workers from not only speaking to residents with health concerns regarding fracking, but it also banned them from attending community meetings outside the department without permission.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Stuck.

“Community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of,” said Deasy.

Pennsylvania is the country’s fastest-growing state for fracking, with 6,000 wells drilled over the last six years. Despite inconsistent proof and lack of defining medical evidence linking fracking to health concerns, many people who live near fracking wells suffer nausea, skin rashes, nosebleeds, and other ailments, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

However, despite the concerns and ailments exhibited by Pennsylvania residents, the health department maintained it’s employee gag order until 2011, said Stuck. She said that the department even provided a list of controversial “buzz words” that employees were to avoid using regarding to fracking.

“There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination,” said Stuck. “There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them.”

When residents called the offices about drilling employees, like Stuck, were to take down the caller’s information and merely kick it up to a supervisor to handle, which they probably just pigeonholed.

Should the allegations be confirmed, we, as a nation, really need to ask ourselves what kind of hold and privilege do the energy companies have in America. If there turns out to be a link between state government entities and gas companies where the companies are pulling these kinds of strings, then we are in more serious trouble than once thought.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.