N.C. bill could land fire chiefs in jail over industrial secrets

The governor is expected to sign the bill making it a misdemeanor if fire chiefs disclose chemicals used in oil and gas mining.

RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers have softened a controversial bill that would have made it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.

MotherJones.com reported that the bill, known as the Energy Modernization Act, is meant to establish protocols for firefighters and health care providers to access information about chemicals during emergencies.

It also gives oil and gas companies the right to require emergency responders to sign confidentiality agreements, according to the report. Lawmakers have reduced the felony to a misdemeanor, but have failed to clarify confusing language that might subject fire chiefs and health care providers to criminal charges.

The provision could prevent emergency responders from speaking about their experiences with chemical accidents — even when the information is relevant to emergency planning or patient care.

Following the bill’s passage last Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters he “absolutely” supports the legislation and is expected to sign the measure into law this week, according to the report.

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