SB4 – Gag Rule Gone! But the fracking battle continues…

wontgagdocs600While the battle in the Capital was fierce, when SB 4( Pavley) was signed by the Governor on Friday, September 20th it required that all of the chemicals used in well stimulation be disclosed and there is NO doctor gag rule!

As you know, PSR-LA had opposed SB 4 from the beginning. In fact, we were the first in the environmental community to oppose SB 4.  We opposed for three reasons: 1) California should prohibit extreme oil extraction techniques such as fracking and acidization because they cause significant harm to health that can not be cured and speeds us over the climate cliff; [link to piece on ban] 2) it allowed the oil and gas industry to hide from the public the complete list of chemicals being used in extraction operations by granting them “trade secret” protection; and 3) it included a doctor gag rule that would have required health professional to sign a contract swearing not to disclose chemicals used to extract oil to anyone—even their patients and consulting professionals. Importantly, this gag rule would have prevented doctors from sounding the alarm about chemical exposures when their patients were harmed.

PSR-LA was joined by a strong social justice voice as well as several environmental organizations in pushing back against hiding chemical use information and gagging doctors. In the final days of session this bill became even more problematic when California Environmental Quality Act exemptions where added to the bill. These last minute provision allow the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal resources (DOGGR) to rely upon prior CEQA documentation to determine that no further environmental review is needed on new projects. The other CEQA provision allows well stimulation to be approved “without discretion” that is, it must be approved (with some restrictions) until the permitting system is in place and a statewide EIR is done. It was at this point that the bill lost all environmental support but still sailed through the democratically controlled California legislature.

But our work is not done. Next, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources will write rules to implement SB 4’s direction. This rulemaking, which is to be completed by January 2015, will be the new battlefield for industry as they seek to have as little regulatory oversight (or “interference,” from their perspective) as possible and operate with as little regard for health as they can get away with. We plan to be deeply involved in that rulemaking and hope you will, again, join in our efforts through your contributions of time, expertise, and financial support to keep the doctor and health professional voice at the forefront of this fight.

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