Two legislators in Ohio, well-known foes of shale development, have introduced a pair of bills designed to reverse a gag order that they say prevents medical personnel from doing their jobs as it relates to providing chemical information about hydraulic fracture (frack) fluids.
State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Sen. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) introduced the companion bills — HB 596 and SB 379, respectively — although the website for the General Assembly did not list a submission date.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed Substitute SB 315 into law in June (see Shale Daily, June 14). Under the law, operators are required to share all chemical information on fracking fluids — including information deemed as trade secrets — with doctors and medical professionals. Those professionals are then allowed to share even proprietary information with the patient and other medical professionals directly involved in treating the patient.
An earlier version of SB 315 stipulated that medical personnel could receive formulation information if necessary for treatment in an emergency, but were required to keep the information confidential (see Shale Daily, May 24). But in public comments, Hagan and Skindell insist that an effective gag order is in place.
“It’s bad public health policy for legislators to take prescriptions from the oil and gas industry, and that’s exactly what they did when writing the gag order,” Hagan in a written statement. “Ohioans would be better served by doctors deciding what is right for their patients, not by oil and gas executives trying to suppress vital medical information. We certainly don’t use family physicians to operate rotary rigs, so I don’t see why we should let oil tycoons decide what kind of information is medically necessary.”
Skindell concurred. “It’s the responsibility of state lawmakers to protect the health and well being of Ohioans and that’s why I am calling for full disclosure of the chemicals used in gas and oil drilling,” he said. “Doctors need to know what chemicals are being used so they can treat their patients. We can’t allow corporate secrets to endanger public safety.”
Aside from lifting the gag order, the legislation would require operators to report all chemicals brought to a well site. Other changes including revising the requirements for oil and gas permit applications, oil and gas well completion records, the designation of trade secret protection for fracking chemicals.
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