Pennsylvania Doctor Lacks Standing To Challenge Chemical Disclosure Statute

Middle District PennsylvaniaThe United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has dismissed a doctor’s lawsuit challenging a Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas statute that prohibits doctors from disclosing frac fluid information outside the confines of treatment.  Specifically, in Rodriguez v. Krancer, Plaintiff, a nephrologist,  claimed that Pennsylvania’s chemical disclosure statute– a statute that permits disclosure of the content of frac fluid to a doctor who treats a patient on an emergency basis but, at the same time, restricts the doctor from disclosing said content– violates his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The statute provides, in pertinent part:

 If a health professional determines that a medical emergency exists and the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be  a trade secret or confidential proprietary information are necessary for emergency treatment, the vendor, service provider or operator shall immediately disclose the information to the health professional upon a verbal acknowledgement by the health professional that the information may not be used for purposes other than the health needs asserted and that the health professional shall maintain the information as confidential.  The vendor, service provider or operator may request, and the health professional shall provide upon request, a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement from the health professional as soon as circumstances permit, in conformance with regulations promulgated under this chapter.

The Plaintiff alleged that he had previously treated persons who were exposed to hydraulic fracturing activities and, as a result, Plaintiff will likely treat patients exposed to frac fluids in the future.  Plaintiff did not allege that he had ever been in a situation where he actually needed the information or that anyone had required him to keep such information confidential.   The Court determined, therefore, that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.  “Plaintiff’s alleged injury in this case is too conjectural to satisfy the injury in fact requirement of Article III standing” because the injuries were “hypothetical.” 

While the decision is significant, the Court did not address the merits of Plaintiff’s claim.  Therefore, a Pennsylvania Court will likely wrestle with this issue in the future.



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