The following is from the U.S. House of Representatives 2011 study, “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing”: “While most underground injections of chemicals are subject to the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress in 2005 modified the law to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities” from the Act’s protections. Unless oil and gas service companies use diesel in the hydraulic fracturing process, the permanent underground injection of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The absence of a minimum national baseline for disclosure of fluids injected during the hydraulic fracturing process and the exemption of most hydraulic fracturing injections from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act has left an informational void concerning the contents, chemical concentrations, and volumes of fluids that go into the ground during fracturing operations and return to the surface in the form of wastewater. As a result, regulators and the public are unable effectively to assess any impact the use of these fluids may have on the environment or public health.”
This is a direct quote from an official federal document and is factual.
Furthermore, Sen. White's letter states: “Under Pennsylvania’s newly signed Act 13, companies are required to disclose all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process to the state Department of Environmental Protection and that information will be published on FracFocus.org, which is a publicly accessible Internet website.”
However, not quite “all” chemicals are disclosed. From the “actual language” of Act 13: “When an operator submits its stimulation record... the operator may designate specific portions of the stimulation record as containing a trade secret or confidential proprietary information. The department [of Environmental Protection] shall prevent disclosure of a designated trade secret or confidential proprietary information.”
That these “secret” chemicals constitute potential public health risks is noted in the following passage from Act 13: “A vendor, service company or operator shallidentify the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary information to any health professional who requests the information in writing if the health professional executes a confidentiality agreement.”
A logical reading of the above passage is that health professional would be prohibited, by virtue of the confidentiality agreement, from: a.) disclosing the nature of the toxic chemicals to other physicians who may be treating patients suspected of having been exposed to fracking chemicals, b.) disclosing the nature of the toxic chemicals to any public health organizations conducting studies of illnesses and disease clusters in proximity to drilling operations, and c.) alerting the community in which they practice of a potential public health risk due to these chemicals.
Many doctors and health organizations have expressed outrage at this clause in Act 13. Lawyers specializing in health law have publicly stated that healthcare providers have every right to be concerned. Various state officials have made vague statements that physicians have “nothing to worry about,” but none have directly addressed the specific concerns raised. None have said: “Yes, you'll be able to share this information with other doctors treating patients with similar symptoms,” or “Yes, you'll be able to share this information with organizations conducting studies related to these chemicals.”
If indeed there is “nothing to worry about,” if indeed there is “full public disclosure of fracking chemicals,” as Sen. White states, then state officials should have no problem making the above statements. Furthermore, they should have no problem repealing the passage of Act 13 that has become infamously known as the “physicians' gag order.” If everything is “out in the open,” there is no need for secrecy.