Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Can I be arrested without evidence against me?”
The North Carolina Senate recently passed a confusing and, to some, troubling measure that would make it a crime for anyone to publicly reveal the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. According to supporters, the measure, which passed the Senate by a vote of 35-12, is an attempt to protect trade secrets of the oil and gas industry. Critics say that the law represents an attempt to deny the public crucial information concerning the substances being pumped into the ground.
The measure was proposed by three Republican senators who say the law is needed to protect vital secrets regarding how the oil companies are able to extract oil from below the earth’s surface. Experts say fracking happens when water, chemicals and sand are blasted deep into the earth, eventually setting free large deposits of oil and natural gas.
The trouble is that some environmental groups claim that these chemicals can be deadly and can leech into the groundwater supply, potentially posing health risks to those that live in the area. As a result, many have campaigned for the oil companies to reveal the exact composition of the fluids being blasted into the earth, something the recent North Carolina law is aimed to prevent.
As the current bill is written, a geologist working for the state would be the sole keeper of the information regarding the contents of the fracking fluid. That information would be kept secure and only released to healthcare providers, public safety officials and fire chiefs, and only in the event of an emergency.
The law says that anyone who was found to have knowingly released company secrets, including the composition of fracking materials, would be guilty of a misdemeanor. Originally, the legislation made a violation of the law a felony, but was downgraded after complaints from some lawmakers who said the legislation was too severe.
Curiously, the effort to protect oil companies from revealing damaging information regarding the chemicals in their fracking liquids seems misplaced in North Carolina. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North Carolina has no oil or natural gas production, meaning there is currently nothing for a state geologist to protect. Legislators say that they hope passing such a law will encourage companies to come to the state and engage in fracking, knowing that their secrets will be kept safe.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Brad Smith is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense.
Mr. Smith was born and raised in Charlotte. He began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney before entering private practice in 2006.
In his free time, Mr. Smith enjoys traveling, boating, golf, hiking and spending time with his wife and three children.
“North Carolina Senate outlaws disclosure of fracking fluid secrets,” by Mica Rosenberg, published at Reuters.com.
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