Appalachian Basin

Ohio State Medical Association Debunks Public Comments About Disclosure

One of the most pervasive claims made about shale development has to do with disclosure — namely, that the industry is withholding information from medical professionals about additives used during hydraulic fracturing. This has been advanced by the likes of Ohio Citizens Action, a vocal anti-development group, as well as a handful of other individuals that are actively trying to confuse the public about this issue.

More specifically, these folks claim that doctors do not have adequate access to the information needed to evaluate and treat patients if an accident were to happen on or near a well pad site. Their goal, of course, is to spread fear, doubt, and misinformation about something very technical and vast in its scope. In this case they count on the fact that few in the general public have read, in its entirety, the 175-page document known as Senate Bill 315 that covers topics like chemical disclosure.

Against that backdrop, it’s worth noting what the leadership of The Ohio State Medical Association recently did: they sent a letter to the members of the Ohio General Assembly saying, essentially, that such claims are garbage.

Senate Bill 315, which was passed in 2012, clearly spells out that first responders and other medical professionals have total access to additives used during the hydraulic fracturing process. In fact, Ohio has always been a full disclosure state, through the fracturing ticket and fracturing chart associated with each individual producing oil and gas well in Ohio.  Senate Bill 315 expanded the disclosure requirements. Additionally, the industry is using FracFocus to share with anyone interested what chemicals are used to produce natural gas in our state, as well as the other 33 producing states in the country.

The letter from OSMA, which represents over 20,000 Ohio physicians, residents, medical students, and practice managers, explained that they are well aware of the fact that, as doctors and medical professionals, they have full access to a list of additives used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

The following Ohio State Medical Association letter has been reprinted in its entirety:

April 18, 2013

The Honorable Keith Faber

President

Ohio Senate

Statehouse

Columbus, OH 43215

Dear President Faber:

I am writing to clarify a statement issued by Ohio Citizen Action on Wednesday, April 17, which purports to capture the Ohio State Medical Association’s position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, chemicals and the medical profession’s right-to-know.

It is true that on Saturday, April 6 during a business session at our Annual Meeting in Columbus that our members considered Resolution No. 41-13 which called for certain requirements and stipulations for fracking chemicals that extend beyond current state law.

However, by a unanimous voice vote, our members ultimately approved only this five-line passage from the 70-line resolution (not including footnotes):

Resolved, That the Ohio State Medical Association advocate for provisions in Ohio state law that would allow doctors, first responders, emergency agencies, and the Local Emergency Planning Commission in each county to obtain the needed information on all chemicals located at an oil or gas exploration well pad, including hydraulic fracturing.

We believe the portion of the Resolution that was supported by our House of Delegates on April 6 is in line with Senate Bill 315 (specifically Sec. 1509.10), the measure pertaining to medical professionals gaining access to chemical compositions used during fracking operations to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who may have been exposed to such chemicals. We believe this existing law affords a physician the right-to-know in a confidential manner when necessary what fracking chemicals are present.

The remainder of the OSMA Resolution requiring fracking companies to report all chemicals — including trade secret chemicals — to the Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC), allowing physicians and other medical professionals access to this LEPC information and fining companies for not properly reporting chemicals were referred to the OSMA Council for further consideration. These provisions were not voted on during the Annual Meeting and these provisions are not currently part of any OSMA stipulations, guidelines or expectations beyond what is already required by state law.

The OSMA Council could address the remainder of this Resolution at a later date. At this point, this issue is not a high-priority matter for the OSMA and that is not expected to change unless directed by the Council. The OSMA’s highest immediate legislative priorities remain the state budget, Medicaid expansion, health insurer accountability and medical liability reforms.

If I can provide any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Tim Maglione, JD

Senior Director, Government Relations

The Ohio State Medical Association jumped into the conversation about hydraulic fracturing because, as medical professionals, they know how important it is that the facts and science are presented.  A person is certainly entitled to his or her personal opinion, but not to his or her own facts.

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