Fracking protest in North Carolina
Fracking protesters at a Moral Mondays demonstration in February 2014.
Twenty states now require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process used to pry gas and oil from tight geological formations. But, as part of the omnibus Energy Modernization Act, SB 786, North Carolina Republicans want to impose civil and criminal penalties, including prison time, on anyone who makes such a disclosure.

The bill has nine co-sponsors, all of them Republicans. Both houses of the state legislature have Republican super-majorities.

Molly Redden at Mother Jones reports:

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

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 health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

"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," says 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."

Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press reported last week that three members of the state's Mining and Energy Commission met privately with officials of companies that use fracking chemicals before the bill was introduced. Among them was Halliburton. The bill assigns the task of issuing fracking licenses to the commission.

Greenpeace, which obtained a cache of emails and meeting schedules from the MEC, concluded that there is a "cozy relationship" between the commission and industry.

Please read below the fold for more on this bill.

Sue Sturgis at the Institute for Southern Studies' "Facing South" blog wrote that Halliburton's complaints had gotten an earlier bill pulled from consideration because it had more constraints on industry. A lobbyist for Halliburton and Koch Industries, D. Bowen "Bo" Heath, managed to get the bill removed in favor of model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The North Carolina Conservation Network opposes SB 786 for a number of reasons—for what it excludes as much as what is in it.

Missing from the bill, the network says: regulation of "compulsory pooling," under which companies can drill on land without the owner's permission; disposal of fracking wastewater; contamination discovered after drilling is completed; and toxic air emissions from fracking. The bill would also cut in half the zone of liability for drillers who contaminate drinking water and would forbid local jurisdictions from banning fracking or regulating the siting of fracking wells.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon May 19, 2014 at 01:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE, DK GreenRoots, and Daily Kos.

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