A bill intended to strengthen state oversight of shale drilling now includes a measure that would allow people to sue to learn what secret chemicals energy companies use during the "fracking" process.
The proposal, which would apply to people who claim a fracking chemical sickened them or polluted their land, was almost immediately labeled useless by environmental advocates. That's because that people would have to prove that the compound, which has been kept secret, made them sick or polluted their land.
To prove this, you would need to know what it was in the first place, said Rick Sahli, an environmental attorney representing the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"That is an overwhelming barrier," Sahli said.
In the bill, physicians could find out which chemical made a patient sick.
Those concerns did not stop the House Public Utilities Committee from passing the bill on a 14-8 party-line vote. The committee decision sets up a likely vote by the full House this afternoon.
The lawsuit measure is the latest in an ongoing debate over how much information drilling companies should disclose about fracking chemicals.
The fracking process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture shale and release trapped oil and gas.
Environmental groups argue the chemicals pose a pollution and health threat. Industry advocates insist the fracking process is safe.