Anti-Fracking Activist in PA Talks About State’s New Industry-Friendly Drilling Law
Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed and where the U.S. coal, oil and nuclear industries began, has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients.
The draconian new law, known as Act 13, revises the state’s oil and gas statutes, to allow oil companies to drill for natural gas using the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, where large volumes of water and toxic chemicals are pumped into vertical wells with lateral bores to shatter the rock and release the hydrocarbons. The law strips rights from communities and individuals while imposing new statewide drilling rules.
“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” said Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has helped a handful of local communities—including the city of Pittsburgh—adopt community rights ordinances that elevate the rights of nature and people to block the drilling. “The state has surrendered over 2,000 municipalities to the industry. It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”
Commenter Cyrus adds some nuance:
You’re only half right, I think. Chapter 32, Subchapter B, Section 3222.1 (b)(10) is pretty clear that “health professionals” are only prevented from disclosing the “the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary information”. This does not prevent them from discussing a patient’s symptoms or treatment (assuming they follow health privacy laws), nor does it prevent them from disclosing that the health problems were caused by fracking chemicals. They are only prohibited from revealing the specific chemical.
Regarding seizure of private property, you are mostly right, although the drilling company’s claim can be disputed. Reimbursement for property can be established by court-appointed objective “viewers”, and the property owner still has the right to a jury trial (Chapter 32, Subchapter D, Section 3241 (d)-(f)).