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Under Proposal, Public May Never Know Why Some Chemicals Are Used For Gas Drilling In NC

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

An advisory group that’s analyzing options for a new state law on shale gas drilling may recommend to lawmakers that they not require energy companies disclose all the chemicals they use when extracting gas. 

Members of the Mining and Energy Commission reviewed a draft proposal at a hearing Friday in Raleigh, debating when and how energy companies would have tell the state environment department the composition of chemicals they use and deem to be trade secrets. The use of other chemicals would be public. 

Under the proposal, which was presented by Commission Chair James Womack, drilling companies would have to sign an affidavit certifying that the chemicals they’re not disclosing are patented trade secrets. They would be required to notify the state which chemicals they are only in the event of contamination or a public health issue. The name of the chemical would not become public. 

The 15-member commission has been deadlocked on the issue of chemical disclosure for more than a year. Womack said during a recess from the hearing that proprietary information should be disclosed only when there’s a public need for it. 

“In the case of private information, where a company or a person has private information they don't want disclosed, we should protect that right,” Womack said. 

The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal Jan. 14.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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