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Bills exclude information on ‘fracking’ chemicals from FOIA


HB 1389 (Robinson) and SB 706 (Chafin) are companion bills that amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by excluding as trade secrets the types of chemicals that may be used in the process of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). HB 1389 was introduced by unanimous consent after the deadline passed for new bills to be filed with the Division of Legislative Services. The introduction date for SB 706 was January 21.

On January 28, HB 1389 was favorably recommended on a 4-2 vote by a House General Laws Subcommittee #2. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the full House General Laws Committee. SB 706 has been referred to Subcommittee #2 of the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

These companion bills – introduced as regulations proposed by the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) on fracking – are still undergoing administrative review. The public comment period on DMME’s regulations (VACo participated) closed on December 5, 2015. DMME’s proposed rule includes specific provisions requiring operators to disclose information about chemicals used in the fracking process on the Chemical Disclosure Registry. While DMME’s proposed rule allows certain chemicals to be claimed as a “trade secret,” it is up to DMME to approve the claim. DMME’s proposed rule also requires operators to disclose certain types of “trade secret” information in the case of medical and other emergencies for “diagnostic, treatment, or other response purposes.”

As introduced, HB 1389 and SB 706 provide a much less detailed suite of conditions and procedures under which use of chemicals for fracking would receive designation as a “trade secret.” The proposed legislation also provide no requirements for disclosure about chemicals in emergency situations.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

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