Commonwealth Court Throws Out Some Challenges to Act 13

  • Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court has upheld several sections of the state's oil and gas law, including a provision dealing with doctors' access to the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Photo: Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

July 17, 2014
By Katie Colaneri and Susan Phillips

Pennsylvania doctors have nothing to worry about when it comes to the so-called “gag order” on chemical exposures from oil and gas drilling. That’s the message from the Commonwealth Court in a much-anticipated ruling on provisions of the state’s two-year-old oil and gas law. The court issued the ruling after the Supreme Court passed on the controversy, sending it back to the lower court.

The “gag rule” stems from a section of Act 13, which requires nondisclosure agreements from healthcare providers who seek information on chemical exposures, which may be deemed “confidential” by industry. The law, which was drafted without the knowledge or consultation of healthcare providers, forces doctors to sign a nondisclosure agreement, thereby agreeing not to share any ingredients in the industry’s secret sauce used to frack and drill for natural gas.

Writing for the Commonwealth Court, President Judge Dan Pellegrini says the law is not unconstitutional, and it neither prevents healthcare providers from obtaining the necessary information or sharing it with other health practitioners.

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