Act 13 Debated at Pitt Symposium
Pennsylvania's law governing Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania, has made headlines because of its zoning rules, how it treats municipalities, and whether it is constitutional. But a symposium at the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday looked deeper into a part of Act 13 that WESA listeners know about, but many Pennsylvanians might not— its medical rules.
The law requires oil and gas operators to disclose proprietary information and trade secrets to doctors trying to diagnose or treat patients exposed to hazardous chemicals, but health care professionals must keep the information secret— some read the law as preventing doctors from even telling their patients.
Alexandra Malatesta, Editor-in-Chief of the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law and organizer of the event, said they worked to bring together both sides of the issue to better educate attendees.
She said the symposium was a neutral, academic discussion.
“Certain parties have a very one-sided, passionate perspective on this provision, and I think sometimes the media can enflame one-sided interests and it will keep people from seeing other perspectives.”
Malatesta said it’s hard to say whether doctors are being gagged. Even though the act is in effect the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board hasn’t yet created specific rules to flesh out what can be disclosed.
She is optimistic the parties will someday resolve their differences, but does not seeit happening in the near future.
“This is going to be a work in progress piece of legislation. They’ve said that in the legislative journals when they were discussing it,” said Malatesta. “This is the first step. And I think it sets a platform for us being able to evolve this law and eventually create something that reconciles diverging interests.”