With all of the known dangers associated with fracking, Americans could use more laws protecting them from this irresponsible industry. A trio of North Carolina state senators has introduced new legislation that would provide additional protections for residents… just kidding, the laws would protect the fracking companies, obviously.
Evidently, the fracking industry’s “trade secrets” take precedent over citizen safety. The three conservative politicians’ bill stipulates that anyone who shares what kind of chemicals are being injected into the ground and seeping into waterways could be charged with a felony.
This news is terrible for everyone, really, but particularly environmentalists attempting to make the public aware of the dangers of fracking. In order to paint a complete picture, it helps to show which kinds of toxins are utilized. By protecting these ingredients as privileged information with the threat of jail time and substantial monetary fines, educating the public becomes that much more difficult.
Besides, it’s not as if these chemicals are secret on an industry-wide level. Already, 20 states mandate that fracking companies must disclose the chemicals they use in their process. To pretend that harmful chemicals that injure the environment are some sort of “secret sauce” that people can’t know about is ludicrous.
Defenders of the legislation insist that, aside from the felony charges, North Carolina’s proposed disclosure laws aren’t that much stronger than those that exist in some other states. Of course, to ignore the felony penalties is to ignore that the government is happy to align with the energy industry to intimidate those who speak out against fracking.
On the slightly bright side, the current bill makes room for one concession: “emergency” situations. In the case of a tragedy, doctors and fire chiefs could obtain the secret list of chemicals utilized by the pertinent fracking company. Even that scenario comes with a caveat, however, as these safety professionals would first be expected to sign confidentiality agreements to learn what they’re up against. The bill leaves it nebulous as to whether these professionals could be charged with a felony for subsequently discussing these chemicals with their own colleagues.
Currently, North Carolina officials have stopped all fracking in the state until stronger regulations could be established. While the initial proposals would have made North Carolina have some of the stricter fracking rules in the country, a recent string of laws and amendments by state Republicans are definitely putting those regulations in jeopardy.
Unsurprisingly, the three politicians leading the charge on making chemical disclosures a felony all have strong ties to the fracking industry. State Senators Buck Newton, Bob Rucho and Andrew Brock each receive large campaign donations from fracking companies like Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas, as well as from McGuireWoods, a lobbying company aligned with Koch, Halliburton and big name gas companies.
North Carolina residents have the right to know and discuss the kind of chemicals that are being injected into their communities. Though criminalizing exposing these toxins may deter some from speaking out against fracking, the truth will come out eventually.