Anti-drillers who oppose the new Act 13 drilling legislation in Pennsylvania have focused on a provision in the law that they claim “gags” doctors and health care workers, preventing them from sharing information about the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing if they learn what those chemicals are in the course of treating a patient. Yes, the anti-drilling claims are convoluted and trumped up, but its all about the headlines, and the headlines (courtesy AP and others) almost all manifestly read that “Act 13 gags doctors and enforces secrecy” or some such. The legislative author of Act 13, PA Speaker of the House Sam Smith, called the allegations “outrageous” and issued the following statement yesterday:
Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Punxsutawney) released the following statement regarding the misinformation being perpetuated by some special interests regarding the chemical disclosure language in one paragraph of Act 13, the Marcellus/Utica Shale Impact law:
“Doctors will be able to provide all of the information needed to discuss any patient ailment.
“It is outrageous to think, let alone for anyone to portray, that the state would actually ‘gag’ a doctor in treating a patient. It is irresponsible for an organization to try and create such hysteria.
“The language in the Marcellus/Utica law was advocated by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
“The new law explicitly requires fracking chemical information be disclosed to medical professionals so that they may provide treatment should the need ever arise. This will enable medical professionals to meet their highest ethical obligations and to fully inform their patients.
“The law was modeled on language used in Colorado, which was praised by public health care officials and others. The language replicates the same process already in place for the same purpose and has existed for decades in the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
“We thought this was a good, proactive approach. Now Pennsylvania has the most progressive hydraulic fracturing disclosure law in the nation. It is designed for transparency and access, and it provides unfettered access to physicians or other medical professionals who need information to treat their patients.
“The law protects proprietary information from disclosure to the general public, but not from environmental or health officials.
“In fact, any citizen can access chemical information, along with the concentrations at which the chemicals are used on a well-by-well basis, through FracFocus.org.
“Act 13, the Marcellus/Utica Impact Law, was crafted to protect our environment — the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live upon.”*
So the law is about opposite as it is being portrayed. It opens up access and ensures doctors and health care workers will get all of the information they need to effectively treat patients, not the other way around.
*Rep. Sam Smith (Apr 12, 2012) – PA Marcellus/Utica Impact Law Chemical Disclosure Requirement One of Strongest in Nation, Speaker Says
- Philadelphia Inquirer (Apr 13, 2012) – Doctors object to secrecy in Pa.’s new natural gas law
- Broadcast Newsroom/AP (Apr 13, 2012) – House leader defends new Pa. drilling law
- Bucks County (PA) Courier Times (Apr 2, 2012) – Is fracking law a gag or guarantee?