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COLUMBUS -- A Youngstown firefighter urged state lawmakers March 22 to require increased disclosure to emergency responders of chemicals used in horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
Sil Caggiano, deputy chief for Mahoning County Hazmat, said a loophole in state law prevents firefighters and others responding to emergencies at fracking sites from accessing complete information about what they're dealing with.
"We are asking our first responders to respond to emergencies without key pieces of information to accurately assess the situation and make the best decision possible to help the public .," he said.
Caggiano was one of the featured speakers during a midday press conference at the Statehouse, then offered testimony later as part of budget deliberations in the Ohio House.
Under current state law, companies aren't required to fully disclose all of the chemicals used as part of fracking activities, with some chemicals protected as trade secrets, Caggiano said
He asked members of the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture Development and Natural Resources Wednesday to include an amendment in the biennial operating budget requiring disclosure of all fracking-related chemicals to first responders.
"First responders have a huge responsibility to the public, and they carry this responsibility bravely despite the risks," he said in his committee testimony. "We should be striving to make their jobs easier, not putting barriers between them and the information they need to protect themselves and us."
Melanie Houston, director of oil and gas for the Ohio Environmental Council, said more than 3 million Ohioans live within half a mile of oil and gas developments.
"For millions of our neighbors, oil and gas activity is a fact of life," she said. "Not requiring fracking companies to disclose trade secret chemicals to those we entrust with our safety, even during a disaster, is just plain irresponsible. We must take responsible steps to ensure these communities are safe and protected."
Shawn Bennett, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said Wednesday that emergency responders already have a way to access information about chemicals used at fracking sites, thanks to legislation passed several years ago.
Those law changes, "created the nation's first combined well construction and hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure requirements," Bennett said in a released statement. "This law also provides the [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] with the authority to obtain proprietary chemical information when responding to an incident and allowing the ODNR full disclosure to share this information with first responders when deemed necessary and proper protocols are followed."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.