Seventeen environmental groups have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to require companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction to report their toxic chemical emissions to the Toxics Release Inventory.
“The EPA estimates the oil and gas industry releases 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, second only to power plants and more than any of the other industries already reporting to TRI,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, one of the 17 groups that filed the 81-page data-filled petition with the EPA on Oct. 24.
“Why shouldn't oil and gas companies be required to report these toxic releases under our right-to-know laws, like so many other industries already do?” he said.
“Inclusion of oil and gas sector pollution data in the Toxics Release Inventory is long overdue,” added Lynn Thorp, national campaigns director for Clean Water Action. “[It] will provide people the information they need to protect their health, their drinking water, and their communities.”
There was no immediate comment from Washington-based American Chemistry Council, which has been a big proponent of fracking as way to create energy independence and American jobs.
“We're reviewing the petition at this time,” said the spokesperson. “So I don't have a comment I can provide yet.”
The groups filing the petition include the EIP, the Natural Resources Defense Council, CitizenShale, the Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club and the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
TRI was enacted by Congress in 1986 in response to the Bhopal disaster that exposed hundreds of thousands of people to toxic chemicals. It requires U.S. industrial facilities to report annually on releases of more than 650 toxic chemicals to the air, land, water, landfills, treatment plants and other sites.
“The Toxics Release Inventory brings daylight to dark corners, by requiring companies to quantify and report their pollution to a public database for everyone to see,” Schaeffer said in a prepared statement. “That makes it easier for communities to measure the environmental impact of local industries, motivates companies to reduce their emissions, and gives all of us insight into how well our environmental laws are working.”
According to the petition: “The oil and gas extraction industry has long used and released large amounts of TRI-listed toxic chemicals, and this has dramatically increased in the last decade with the rapid spread of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. ... The communities that host this rapidly growing industry have a right to know what is being released to their environment. Today's petition would make this information available for the first time to citizens, communities and lawmakers.”
The oil and gas industry is one of the few energy or extraction sectors that does not report to the TRI, according to the petition. By contrast, electric utilities, coal mining, and metal mining have all reported to the TRI for nearly 15 years.
“Western Maryland currently has the highest targeted amount of shale gas within the state, and development activities will likely be centered in rural communities like Garrett County,” said Eric Robison, president of CitizenShale. “Unfortunately, the county does not have the information or ability to address the storage of large volumes of chemicals, which may appeal to companies looking to stage drilling and processing activities within Maryland. The reporting provided by the TRI would allow a community like Garrett County to, first, be informed and, second, be prepared.”
Dominic Frongillo, deputy town supervisor of Caroline, N.Y., and founder of Elected Officials to Protect New York, agreed that there is a need for information.
“Over 450 elected officials from across New York are calling for continuing the state's moratorium on fracking until the drilling method is proven safe. Requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals is the common-sense first step. We need the federal government to be a leader and advocate for our citizens,” Frongillo said.