A group of seventeen environmental groups has taken its fight for more openness in the nation’s oil and gas fields to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a filing led by the Environmental Integrity Project, the EPA is being asked to include gas extraction and processing in its Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements.
Congress created the inventory in reaction to the 1984 industrial disaster in Bhopal, India. Companies that produce more than 25,000 pounds of listed toxic chemicals or handle more than 10,000 pounds of the material must report it to the EPA. The data is then posted online.
Right now, drillers do not have to report data to the TRI and the petitioners feel that needs to change.
“We’re talking about drilling and other wellhead operations, and yes that would include hydro-fracturing, but we are also talking about storage, about compressors and boosters that are needed to move gas, and the large fractionators that split gas into components that are used for chemical processing,” said Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer.
He said this is not about trying to prevent the gas and oil companies from doing business. “It sets no limits on pollution, it does not establish new permit requirements… TRI requires only the filing of an annual public report that says how and where certain chemicals are being released to the environment.”
More than 650 chemicals are included on the TRI.
Supporters of the rule change say the oil and gas companies use or produce many of the toxins that are included in the TRI and they should be subject to the reporting requirements.
Schaeffer said the United States is great partially because of the free flow of information, which allows citizens to make informed decisions. However, the lack of information when it comes to the oil and gas industry makes it impossible for politicians and citizens to make those decisions.
“There is no functional way on any kind of reporting website such as FracFocus to aggregate the volume of toxic chemicals being used in a particular state or a geographic region,” said Earthworks Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel. Earthworks is among the groups supporting the petition.
“Without the ability to get a look at the big picture it is easier for industry and regulators to dismiss community claims that oil and gas development is hurting them,” said Baizel.
The EPA says it has received the petition and is reviewing it.