The state of North Carolina has set laws that allow energy companies mining for unconventional shale gas, to sue any party that discloses information on the chemicals used.
The Energy Modernisation Act, SB 786 (Act) was passed on the 15th of May this year was primarily sponsored by Senators Rucho, Newton and Brock.
Located on page ten of the Act, Section 7(a) makes an amendment to Article 27 Chapter 113 of the General Statutes stating that: “while confidential information must be maintained as such with the utmost care, for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment, the information should be immediately accessible to first responders and medical personnel in the event that the information is deemed necessary to address an emergency.”
Section 7(a), subsection (c) goes further to reveal that the only parties exempt from prosecution of disclosure penalties are:
1. The Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety, who are expected to treat the list and names of chemicals as confidential.
2. Medical responders who may need to treat injured parties in the event of an accident or emergency. However, the medical responders are automatically held liable to a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.
3. Fire Chief, who , upon emergency, may need to treat an accident and will need to know what chemicals have caused the problem. In the same instance as the Medical responder, the Fire Chief and their personnel too will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.
On page 11, subsection (d) of section 7(a), provisions are outlined for the penalties of disclosure of the fracking chemicals used during unconventional shale gas extraction, stating that outside the persons named in subsection (c): “any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes.”
If you wish to read the two page Article 24 the Trade Secrets Protection Act, click here.
All in all, in North Carolina, the Energy Modernisation Act is a legal blow to local communities who wish for fracking chemicals, many known to be harmful to the environment and human health, to be disclosed fully, without punishment.
Whilst County Fermanagh is not affected by the Act, one must consider what European or National equivalent will be passed that holds us to the same effect, as we ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals, as we look to avoid imbibing, through our air, water and soils, chemicals that pose a serious risk in diminishing the quality of our human health.