A Pennsylvania physician has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a provision in a recently enacted state law that bars certain disclosures by physicians treating patients who were exposed to hydraulic‑fracturing fluids. Rodriguez v. Krancer, No. 12-1458 (M.D. Pa. filed 7/27/12). Defendants are the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Public Utility Commission and attorney general.  

The challenged provision is part of Act 13, a state law enacted in February 2012, that governs the disclosure of confidential proprietary information or trade secrets that health-care providers receive from drillers about the chemicals in fluids used to fracture shale and release oil and natural gas. Under the provision, a driller may request that a health-care provider enter into an agreement to maintain the confidentiality of information or the specific identity and amount of chemicals that are claimed to be a trade secret as a condition of receiving the information.  

The complaint alleges that “[t]he First Amendment does not permit such a gross and content-based intrusion on speech.” It asks the court to bar enforcement of the requirement for providers to enter into confidentiality agreements before receiving “information needed to treat patients in emergency situations.”