In December, Texas enacted fracking disclosure rules, which require drilling companies to itemize what chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process. Any well that got a permit from February 1, 2012 on has to make the disclosure on the website FracFocus.org.
But there was an exception for “trade secrets,” chemicals that are part of a proprietary mix for each company that they don’t want others to find out about.
And then there was another exception to that exception. If, say, someone winds up in the emergency room after being exposed to frac fluid, a doctor can find out from the company what those trade secret-exempt chemicals are.
And… wait for it… there’s an addendum to that. Doctors who learn what exactly those trade secret fracking chemicals are have to follow a “gag rule.” They have to sign a form with the drilling company saying they’ll keep those chemicals confidential.
As Scott Detrow reports for our fellow StateImpact site in Pennsylvania today, that “gag rule” went through very quietly in the Lone Star State, but has been making waves in the East.
From Detrow’s report:
“In Pennsylvania and Ohio, medical professionals have voiced concern the restrictions would interfere with their ability to treat patients and share information with peers. But the Texas Medical Association endorsed the Lone Star State’s new rules. And of the hundreds of public comments filed in response to Colorado’s regulations — nearly all of them criticizing the rule as weak — just six people mentioned the doctor nondisclosure language. Not a single major Colorado or Texas newspaper mentioned the doctor language in its coverage of the states’ new disclosure standards.
The wide range of reactions underscores how differently the politics of regulating fracking is playing out from state to state. What was praised as a reasonable compromise in Colorado has been demonized as an industry giveaway in Pennsylvania.”
Detrow also notes that the amounts of chemicals in question are likely very small. “99 percent of fracking fluid is made up of water and sand,” he writes, and “in the growing number of states with disclosure regulations and laws, companies are required to disclose the majority of that remaining one percent.” But a fraction of that one percent falls under the trade secret exemption, and that’s what has some physicians in Pennsylvania and Ohio worked up.
To learn more about why, you can read the full story over at StateImpact Pennsylvania.