A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision overturning provisions of a state law that benefited the shale gas industry leaves unanswered legal questions for physicians, Professor Barry Furrow said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Oct. 2.
The ruling struck down as unconstitutional a 2012 law that limited notifications about chemical spills and leaks that result from fracking and prevented doctors from disclosing information about toxins to which their patients may have been exposed.
While the court rejected a provision that limits the way doctors can share trade secret information about the chemicals used in fracking, it also threw out portions of the law that permitted physicians to gain confidential information in the first place.
“It creates this kind of vacuum,” said Furrow, director of the Health Law program. “What happens to a physician now who wants trade secret information? He doesn’t have to sign a waiver but does he have a right to anything?”
The court’s opinion gives the state Legislature time to revise the law which aimed to modernize the regulatory framework for state’s oil and natural gas industries.
The ruling also extended the notification provision for public water suppliers for 180 days to allow the Legislature time to add private water supplies to a notification requirement, since one-fourth of Pennsylvanians get their drinking water from private wells or springs.
Furrow has previously been quoted on the controversial law in a variety of media outlets, including National Public Radio.