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Bills call for increased access to information about chemicals used in fracking

Special to the Legal News

Published: October 30, 2012

A Lakewood senator and a Youngstown state representative have partnered to introduce bills into the Ohio General Assembly that would revise the state’s oil and gas standards.

Senate Bill 379, sponsored by Sen. Michael Skindell, and House Bill 596, led by Rep. Robert Hagan, would amend the requirements for disclosure of chemical information to medical professionals, oil and gas permit applications and oil and gas well completion records.

The bills also would charge an owner with reporting all chemicals brought to a well site.

Skindell and Hagan, both Democrats, have said the proposed changes are rooted in “addressing the concerns of many Ohioans regarding the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing by the oil and gas industry.”

The pair said they crafted the bills to give medical professionals additional access to chemicals used in fracking.

The proposed legislation calls for lifting the confidentiality clause that was placed on medical professionals through Senate Bill 315, the mid-biennium energy bill that was signed into law in June.

The measure would remove language from Ohio law that states: “A medical professional who receives information pursuant to (a chemical’s composition) shall keep the information confidential and shall not disclose the information for any purpose that is not related to the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well.”

Hagan called it “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,” he said. “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.”

Hagan said oil and gas executives are out of their bounds in withholding certain information about chemicals used in the fracking process.

“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,” he said.

Skindell agreed.

“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,” Skindell 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.”

If enacted, SB 379 would expand how medical professionals are able to access information about chemicals used in fracking and it would broaden the reasons for medical staff requesting chemical information as well as the ways a patient could be determined to be adversely affected.

Hagan said the bills provide, that at the onset of the application process, the owner of a well disclose all chemical information used in both well stimulation and well drilling.

“If a chemical or a fluid containing a chemical is brought to a well site, the owner of the well immediately shall submit to the chief of the division of oil and gas resources management a list that identifies each chemical or each chemical in the fluid,” HB 596 reads.

The oil and gas resources management chief then would be tasked with maintaining a database of the chemical information.

Under the bill’s provisions, well owners would also be required to provide the Ohio Department of Natural Resources with a full list of chemicals at well sites.

The proposed legislation requires the following information be reported: the chemical’s name, the chemical abstracts service number, the chemical family name, the trade name and the vendor; a brief description of the chemical’s intended use or function; and the proposed quantity to be used, reported as a percentage, by weight or volume, of the total fluid.

In addition, Skindell said, the bills would centralize all chemical information, including proprietary information, with the DNR chief. The change would be expected to give medical professionals timely access to information from a single source.

HB 596 is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland.

Both bills are awaiting committee assignments.

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