Pa. energy executive's letter is misleading

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Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett’s energy executive, again misleads the public about how Act 13 stifles obtaining information concerning the potential toxicity of shale gas activities (“Docs and Drilling,” Jan. 10 letters). We raised the transparency issue in a Post-Gazette op-ed when Act 13 was passed in March 2012, to which Mr. Henderson responded in these opinion pages with the same misleading approach used in his current letter.

Most egregiously, Mr. Henderson restricts his comments to chemicals used in the hydrofracturing process despite scientific agreement that the major concern for Pennsylvanians is not chemicals that are put deep underground but those in the flowback fluids which are handled at the surface where people live. These contain many highly toxic compounds and possible new reactants — yet Act 13 specifically exempts industry from providing this information.

Mr. Henderson also misleads about information available on trade secret chemicals among the hydrofracturing agents. He does not tell us that, if disclosed, the health care provider can be sued for the value of the trade secret — according to Halliburton, upward of $100 million which would not be covered by malpractice insurance. Furthermore, it is unclear if the health care provider’s legal requirement to divulge information to the Pennsylvania Department of Health might still risk a lawsuit. Given these formidable hurdles, it is disingenuous of Mr. Henderson to state that he is “not aware of a physician having to actually request this information.”

After our previous exchange of op-eds, Mr. Henderson refused our offer to meet with him to explain our concerns. Our offer still stands.

Associate Director
Southwest Pennsylvania
Environmental Health Project Peters
Dr. Goldstein has been a member of both the U.S. and Canadian national academy committees involved with shale gas issues and was assistant administrator of the Environment Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan.

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