North Carolina Republicans: “Reveal Fracking Chemicals, Go To Jail”

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No, not “reveal your fracking chemicals or go to jail,” but, “if you reveal anyone’s fracking chemicals, you should go to jail.”

In a move that reeks of desperation (or perhaps it’s just a show for their owners?), three Republican state senators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to the state legislature that would make the disclosure of fracking chemicals a felony offense.

Wow. Given the bad PR that such a move is likely to generate, could it really be worse to allow the sharing of a list detailing the exact chemicals used in fracking? Are the chemicals used really that bad? Food for thought… though perhaps not food that you’d want to eat if it’s been in contact with the chemicals used in fracking.

Image Credit: Bars via Flickr CCImage Credit: Bars via Flickr CC

While fracking has become more and more common throughout the US (and elsewhere as well) in recent years, the chemicals used in the process have remained nearly as shrouded in secrecy as ever. The little information that has made it through the cracks, though, isn’t good. (See this as well.)

That has begun to change recently though, with more and more states requiring the disclosure of the chemicals used in the process — though many times leaving big loopholes.

The senators in North Carolina are apparently looking to cut this off by the head though, with the relatively harsh new legislation.

Grist provides more:

The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and healthcare providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it’s not clear what the penalty would be for a healthcare worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” notes Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement,” continues Wiseman. “But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.”

While the issue of fracking is certainly an important one, and I’m not saying that it isn’t worth fighting against the practice, it is looking increasingly likely that the fracking bubble will burst within the next few years.

While you’ve no doubt heard the talk about the huge energy potential of shale gas and fracking, the reality is that it just is not that economical, and that wells typically begin declining in production very rapidly — it’s no substitute for the cheap oil that this country’s industrial revolution rode on the back of.

As Houston-based geological consultant Art Berman recently noted in an interview with OilPrice: “I’m all for shale plays, but let’s be honest about things, after all. Production from shale is not a revolution; it’s a retirement party.”


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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