Doctors Can't Discuss Patients' Health and Fracking

Lately, right wing extremism is moving to interfere with the Doctor-Patient relationship. About seven states intervene by requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds before a woman can have an abortion, and New Hampshire is considering a law that would force doctors to tell patients there’s a connection between breast cancer and abortion, an utter lie.

Now, doctors that practice in Pennsylvania are explicitly barred from talking with patients about chemicals used in natural gas fracking, even though they may be implicated in a doctor’s diagnosis. 

Pennsylvania’s new law requires companies to disclose the type of chemical and the quantity used in fracking fluids to any medical physician that requests that information. But, doctors must sign a confidentiality agreement stating they will not share that information with anyone else, including their patients.

Obviously, the law is meant to protect natural gas companies from lawsuits and keep citizens from protesting industry expansion. Fracking fluids contain a slew of toxic chemicals (toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, benzene etc) that are known to be connected to a variety of health issues, including cancer.

Now, citizens could have serious health conditions and will never know the cause.

Clearly, the EPA is under so much pressure from the natural gas industry that its results can’t be trusted. While an independent analysis of the water in one Pennsylvania town showed very elevated methane and other chemicals, EPA says the water is safe.

Meanwhile, last week, the Dept of Interior authorized fracking in one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the West – Utah’s Desolation Canyon. The area is on the short-list to be protected as wilderness, but no more.  

The Gasco development project allows 1,300 natural gas wells there, against the wishes of the US EPA and tens of thousands of citizens who protested the move.

The proposed wilderness is the largest unprotected roadless area in the lower 48 states. Even with proposed federal regulations on fracking, the region will be turned into an industry zone.

Expose on Fracking Industry

In an expose in the Rolling Stone about the fracking industry, Jeff Goodell writes:

"Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners. For Chesapeake Energy, the primary profit in fracking comes not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas.

The company is now the largest leaseholder in the US, owning the drilling rights to some 15 million acres. CEO McClendon has financed this land grab with junk bonds and complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged, deeply indebted company that has more in common with Enron than ExxonMobil.

As McClendon put it in a conference call with Wall Street analysts a few years ago, "I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet.

According to Arthur Berman, a respected energy consultant in Texas who has spent years studying the industry, Chesapeake and its competitors resemble a Ponzi scheme, overhyping the promise of shale gas in an effort to recoup their huge investments in leases and drilling.

When the wells don’t pay off, the firms wind up scrambling to mask their financial troubles with convoluted off-book accounting methods. "In fact, when you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down."

Indeed, the US Energy Information Agency (IEA) forecasts there’s much less natural gas shale reserves than previously thought.

In last year’s report, IEA projected natural gas fracking could meet US energy demand for 17 years – now, it’s down to 6 years.

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Comments on “Doctors Can't Discuss Patients' Health and Fracking”

  1. Jim

    Are you referring to the passage on page 99 of the bill? It actually sounds pretty reasonable…health practitioners are granted immediate oral permission to a trade secret to address a health need, then, when time permits, they are to provide a written request – it doesn’t seem to explicitly bar discussion of how chemicals might have effected a patient.


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