New York legislator sponsors fracking settlement disclosure bill

Settlements arising from hydraulic fracturing disputes have typically included non-disclosure provisions.

 A New York State Senator has proposed S4630-2013 which would prohibit non-disclosure agreements in settlements relating to “fracturing where the facts disclosed in the action relate to a public health or safety threat.” The bill would amend New York’s civil practice law to prohibit the court from approving “a settlement of such action that includes a non-disclosure agreement until the court has reviewed all facts with regard to a threat to public health or safety.”

Because legal actions relating to fracturing involve the impact of toxic chemicals on persons and property, any information revealed in the actions that relates to public health or safety should be available to the public, according to the senator. Besides hydraulic fracturing, this bill would apply to the “storage, transportation and disposal of fluids” used in shale gas drilling.

 This proposed law comes in the wake of a Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas’ decision that a settlement agreement entered in a case complaining of drilling activities be unsealed and made available to the public. This decision was discussed in this blog on April 2, 2013, Court determines that settlement agreement concerning drilling activities is public record.

This article was prepared by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.