Gagged: Ohio Senate places oil & gas trade secrets ahead of public health

On Tuesday, the Ohio Senate passed SB 315, Governor Kasich’s energy policy legislation, and, in the process made an industry-friendly bill even friendlier, while leaving the public even less safe.

The original version of the bill required drillers to disclose to state regulators the chemicals used in fracking within 60 days. Regulators were then required to post safety information for each chemical on the agency’s website. While this proposal had  a number of serious flaws that we’ve identified before, it was a small step in the right direction.

The Senate version that passed yesterday completely rewrites the chemical disclosure requirements, preserving a major loophole for chemicals deemed “trade secret” by companies, but adding a new industry-sponsored “gag order” on medical professionals.

The Senate bill handicaps the public’s safety by imposing a gag order on medical professionals. If a patient has been affected by the fracking process, drillers will be required to disclose their trade secret chemicals to the physician, but the bill explicitly forbids the physician from disclosing the chemicals to the public, beyond what is necessary to diagnose or treat the patient. The patient will never know what made them sick and worse, others living nearby—including those who may use the same water source—will not be warned about what chemicals they could be exposed to.

The Senate also removed a provision from the original bill that would require well owners to disclose chemical information to emergency responders upon request. If some emergency were to arise at a fracking well, and officials had to know which chemicals were active on the site in order to restore safety, the drillers now have no legal obligation to tell them.