A Commonwealth Court panel ruled today that a Pennsylvania-based environmental group will not be able to access raw data collected during a state probe into potential exposure to radioactivity from Marcellus Shale gas and oil drilling operations.
The court overturned an earlier decision by the state Office of Open Records which ruled that the data – held by the Department of Environmental Protection – was part of a study and therefore should be open to the public. The Court ruling re-classified the information as a “noncriminal investigation” rather than a study, barring access to it.
The DEP has been collecting samples from more than 100 drilling facilities across the state under a mandate to evaluate “potential radiation exposure to workers, the public and the environment resulting from certain materials generated by gas and oil exploration and production activities,” Judge Anne E. Covey noted in her opinion.
The Judge ruled in favour of the DEP which argued that a “premature” public release of the still “unvalidated and preliminary” data could lead to the circulation of erroneous or misleading conclusions regarding health risks.
“We hold that DEP met its burden of proving…that the data is exempt from disclosure and therefore is not a public record,” Covey wrote.
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