The North Carolina Senate has approved a proposal filed by three Republican state senators to criminalize the disclosure of confidential information concerning the type of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The bill, titled the Energy Modernization Act, is intended to build on rules currently being drafted by the North Carolina Mining & Energy Commission.

Under the bill, individuals would face a felony charge for revealing fracking chemicals used in the process. The aim is to safeguard trade secrets about the type of fluids used by companies for extracting oil or gas from wells using the fracking method.

The information can be provided to healthcare providers and fire chiefs during emergency situations, however individuals disclosing information outside of emergency settings would be given fines and might even spend several months in prison, Energywire noted.

Companies holding sensitive chemical information will be allowed to ask professionals dealing with emergencies to sign a confidentiality agreement. The size of the penalty charge for a healthcare worker or fire chief disclosing information about chemical accidents with colleagues, however, is yet to be revealed, Mother Jones commented.

The felony provision approved in North Carolina seems much more stringent than provisions used in most other states, Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations, told the publication. Still, the bill stipulates disclosure rules similar to those in other regions, Wiseman noted.

A ban on fracking in North Carolina remains in place until regulations are approved by the legislature.