Dirty Secrets in the WV Legislature

by Duane Nichols on March 26, 2013



Do WV Senators work for WV citizens … or out-of-state gas companies?

The Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee amended the Marcellus Horizontal Well Drilling rule (now bundled into SB243) on March 12 to allow companies to keep toxic, carcinogenic hydraulic fracturing fluid chemicals a secret.

This “Dirty Secrets” amendment guts the disclosure provisions and leaves land owners in the dark, without any meaningful way to monitor their own water wells. It endangers first responders, doctors and hospital staff, not to mention injured workers.
Halliburton (yes, that Halliburton) has convinced the WV DEP that the recipe for frack fluids should be “trade secrets”.
The Halliburton loophole….oops, sorry….the committee amendment, says the driller may designate the identity or concentration, or both, of a chemical as a trade secret….not to be shared with the DEP except in the case of a DEP investigation…or a medical emergency. How might that emergency play out?

What if workers were chemically injured at 1AM…what would be the procedure to make the chemicals known to first responders, doctors, hospitals? Would they be endangered by a lack of immediate disclosure? How would the patient get needed attention?

And get this! Health professionals who obtain the trade (dirty) secret information would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and provide a written statement of need. Can you say GAG ORDER? What are they trying to hide?

Rural landowners who get drinking water from their well or spring are supposed to have baseline water tests, but under the rule, if contamination appears more than six months after drilling, the driller is off the hook. Meanwhile, the well owner will not know what chemicals they should test for. Would a doctor who knows of an exposure be allowed to tell other patients, fellow workers, or the neighbor next door?

We’re talking 250,000 gallons of chemical per well. These include benzene, sodium hydroxide, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid, glutaraldehyde, acetaldehyde, polyacrylamide, and hundreds more.

This monstrosity is now in the hands of the full Senate, soon to be in the House and then the House Judiciary Committee. Will they stop this travesty…or will the gas whisperers be there to do their black magic?

Ask The Legislature to guarantee the right of citizens to know about the chemicals to which they are exposed.

Repeal the Dirty Secrets Amendment!   Prepared by WV Chapter of the Sierra Club

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What don’t they want you to know? Senate panel mistaken to approve rule requiring fracking fluid be kept secret!

Ask anyone about the secret to success and they’ll tell you: Shhhh! It’s a trade secret. Not really. But you might have walked away from a recent session of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee at the state Capitol thinking that. Especially, if the members of that panel actually believed the line of nonsense the world’s largest provider of products and services to the energy industry was gushing. And apparently they did.

This week, that eminent committee advanced Senate Bill 245, which allows the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to put its 46-page Gas Well Act’s rules into effect. But one of those rules was subject to amending by Halliburton, the Houston-based powerhouse. It objected earlier to the rule providing for divulging its fracking cocktail’s ingredients and concentrations.

Prior to Halliburton’s pressure, that rule gave operators the option of naming the chemical recipe as a trade secret, but it would still be known to the DEP or a health provider in an emergency. Now, the rule reads that such fracking formulas are not even available to the DEP, except for the purposes of investigations or medical emergencies. And if that data is turned over to a health provider, it requires a physician to ink a confidentiality agreement, and explain in writing why that information is needed.

So now, it’s possible, this rule could prevent a health professional from knowing what they are treating until after the fact. Like … after their patient’s beyond the point of no return, for example.

Furthermore, the idea that the agency that regulates this industry is not even privy to such information is ludicrous. Why require an investigation before the identity and concentrations of these chemicals is known? As the fracking fluid rule is stands now, what’s to stop someone from even using an illegal chemical? Far be it from us to pretend we are experts on fracking fluids. We are not.

Still, what we do know is many, if not most, drilling operators already post the ingredients on the Internet they use and the maximum concentrations in their recipes. Letting anyone opt out of divulging this information as a trade secret is, at best, wrong-headed. At worst, a betrayal of the public’s trust.

This is no trade secret. Someone just doesn’t want anyone to know what it is and how much of its being put in the ground. Unlike many secrets — secret societies, oaths and proceedings — the concept of trade secrets is not repugnant to us. However, this does not qualify as one. It’s simply an attempt to mislead the public. And it’s already even failed to do that.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

S. Thomas Bond March 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

You would think an elected body would try to protect the electorate, wouldn’t you? Just what is more important than that? Of course, government is not bound by the precautionary principle, “First, do no harm.” Nor are they bound to research what they are doing. Or even read the bills they are voting on. It’s just — shake this hand — and — take that advice — and go on to the next bill, — planning to get reelected.


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