Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why PA Gas Industry Should Back Senator Leach's Doctors' Fracking Disclosure Bill

If anything caused more public mistrust of hydraulic fracturing than the initial, broad opposition by the gas industry to disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluids, I do not know what it is.  Telling people to "trust us," as fluids containing non-disclosed chemicals were used to break shale rock, was a dog that was never going to hunt. Ever since that initial public relations debacle, states and some companies played catch-up by embracing disclosure requirements.

Yet, in Pennsylvania progress made on disclosure and restoring public confidence (I ordered in 2008 that chemicals used in fracking to be placed on the website of the Department of Environmental Protection) has been badly undermined by unclear language in Act 13.  A portion of Act 13  can be read to gag physicians, when they talk with their patients or other doctors about fracking chemicals, and has led to much concern.

The response of Governor Corbett's Administration (and by extension the gas industry in Pennsylvania) to these concerns is to put out statements saying that doctors are not gagged.  That dog is not going to hunt either.

Remember that it is the judicial branch of government that interprets statutes in court cases and not aides to any Governor. And doctors have plenty of experience of being sued and so rightly are jumpy when statutory language is not definitive and unambiguous.

What will hunt is an amendment to Act 13 that clearly states that doctors are not gagged by any confidentiality agreement that they sign from discussing freely with their patients and other treating physicians information about chemicals in fracking fluids that they obtain from companies. Into this latest disclosure mess comes Pennsylvania state Senator Daylin Leach, who will introduce a bill to do just that.

No matter where the Corbett Administration stands on the Leach bill, the public will be overwhelmingly on Leach's side.  The gas industry has the muscle to pass this bill if it wants to do so, and it should. It will be interesting to see if the gas industry has learned lessons and supports Senator Leach's bill or is an old dog unable to learn from mistakes of the recent past.


  1. Agreed! Here's hoping such a common-sense measure will pass. Thanks for this post.

  2. Bow long as we are talking dog talk....try this Tail wagging the Dog.....I am pretty sure you know who is what!

  3. that it is the judicial branch of government that interprets statutes in court cases and not aides to any Governor.

    Public Relations