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Bill to allow secret environmental pollution sent to Oklahoma House

The controversial bill that would give corporations in Oklahoma the legal right to hide pollution from the public’s eyes won overwhelming approval this week in a state house committee.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 14-3 to send SB 1003 to the full house for a vote. The bill is the measure that would allow corporations to keep environmental, health and safety audits from public or court view. It would include all chemical and energy companies.

Known as the Oklahoma Environmental, Health and Safety Audit Privilege Act, it was approved in the Senate on a 36-7 vote as OK 
Energy Today reported earlier this month.

Here’s how the committee vote in the House went:

      YEAS:   14

    Caldwell (T)      Davis             Hill              Kannady

    Luttrell          Martinez          May               McBride

    McDugle           O’Donnell         Pfeiffer          Sneed

    Steagall          Taylor

    NAYS:    3

    Bell              Dunnington        Virgin

But the measure is facing opposition from journalists and environmentalists alike. Former Oologa Lake Leader publisher John Wylie recently wrote against the measure in a blog posting and spoke of it in an interview on Public Radio Tulsa, KWGS.

Click here to listen to his comments on radio.

This is what he wrote on his blog.

The War over SB 1003 (Environmental Audit Immunity)

Opinion is so divided about SB 1003, which would shield internal corporate environmental, health and safety audits from public or court view, that combatants can’t even agree on its name.

Backers say it would entice chemical and energy industries to make safety and stringent environmental protection core corporate values. They call it an “environmental or health and safety law”.

Foes say it rewards corporate polluters who violate health and safety laws by dodging responsibility or even public disclosure.

While its official name is the “Environmental, Health and Safety Audit Privilege Act, critics call it the “Pollution Secrecy Act” or “Right to Know Nothing Bill”.

It sailed through the Senate with little notice March 14 by a 36-7 margin, with 5 senators excused, despite the act specifically excluding from the Oklahoma Open Records Act not just audits, but any documents used as exhibits or appendices or photographs—even ones not collected as audit components. Also secret would be communications “associated with an environmental or health and safety audit” (without defining “associated”), and even documents not marked as “Privileged.”


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