Petition asks EPA to require that fracking firms report chemicals
The Environmental Integrity Project recently petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require that companies engaged in gas and oil fracking report to the Toxics Release Inventory.
The industry uses large amounts of toxic chemicals and this has increased in the last decade with the spread of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”).
The petition seeks to make the chemical information available to citizens, communities and lawmakers so they can measure the impact of drilling operations.
Joining Environmental Inte-grity Project on the petition are 16 regional and national environmental organizations.
“The Toxics Release Inven-tory brings daylight to dark corners, by requiring companies to quantify and report their pollution to a public data base for everyone to see,” said Project director Eric Schaeffer.
The EPA estimates the oil and gas industry releases 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year,
second only to power plants.
“Why shouldn’t oil and gas companies be required to re-port these toxic releases under our Right-to-Know laws, like so many other industries already do?” Schaeffer asked.
The advent of fracking has allowed the industry to grow rapidly in the last decade.
“Western Maryland currently has the highest targeted amount of shale gas within the state, and development activities will likely be centered in rural communities,” said Eric Robison, a Garrett County, Md. resident who heads the Citizen Shale environmental group.
Presently, the county does not have the information or ability to address the storage of large volumes of chemicals, but reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory would allow a community to be in-formed and prepared, Robison said.
“The ‘Right-to-Know’ principle is the cornerstone of making environmental decisions—and every basic decision in a democratic society,” said David Masur, director of PennEnvironment.
The industry is one of the few energy or extraction sectors that do not report to the Inventory. Electric utilities, coal mining and metal mining have all reported for nearly 15 years.
The Toxics Release Inven-tory was enacted in 1986 as Congress’s response to the Bhopal disaster that exposed hundreds of thousands of people to toxic chemicals. Each industrial facility must report annually on its releases of over 650 listed toxic chemicals into the air, land, water, landfills, treatment plants, and other sites.
If a gas company were to propose a facility in a municipality, a community member or local decision maker could pull up the company’s past reports and judge whether the facility might be a good neighbor.
Or the company itself could compare its releases against other facilities and determine whether it is in line with the industry standard.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws.