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Ohio Utica Shale

Eco-groups ask U.S. EPA to close drilling loophole in TRI

By Bob Downing Published: January 30, 2014

From the Environmental Integrity Project today:

WASHINGTON, D.C.///January 30, 2014///Hundreds of large oil and gas facilities in six energy boom states -- Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming – are emitting a combined 8.5 million tons of toxic chemicals each year, according to new data compiled by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). The EIP report details why the toxic emissions should be reported to the public Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but are not due to an arbitrary loophole that exempts the oil and gas extraction industry from such disclosure.

Available online at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/01_30_2014.php, the new EIP data provides powerful new support for an October 2012 petition urging EPA action to close the TRI loophole. The data on the impact of the reporting loophole in the six states was submitted to EPA today by EIP and 13 other groups. (See list below.)

EIP found that 395 facilities in the oil and gas extraction industry each emitted over 10,000 pounds of at least one toxic chemical, the annual threshold that would require reporting to the TRI in other industries. Texas led the list of six states with 209 sites, followed by: Colorado (124); Louisiana (34); Wyoming (14); Pennsylvania (13); and North Dakota (1). Nearly 200 of the sites surpassed this threshold two or more years in a row, according to EIP.

EIP surveyed the industry for ten TRI-listed chemicals, including toxics such as formaldehyde, benzene, and hexane. TRI reporting requirements apply to facilities that use or process more than 10,000 pounds of any listed chemical. The facilities identified in the EIP report are far above this threshold, because their reported emissions will usually represent just one to two percent of the total amount used or processed. EIP noted that the facilities may actually be using or processing more than 500,000 pounds of each toxic chemical.

Eric Schaeffer, executive director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: "We are in the middle of an oil and gas boom, but have far too little information about the environmental consequences. Our research shows that many of these oil and gas plants emit tens of thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants every year, but that data was hard to get and incomplete. We need this industry to report that pollution to the Toxics Release Inventory where everyone can see it – just like chemical plants and other facilities have done for more than 20 years.

Sharon Wilson, Texas organizer, Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said: "The Toxics Release Inventory would require fracking companies to give people information about threats to their families’ health. Without the TRI, the oil and gas industry not only pollutes with impunity, it’s not even required to inform the people it is poisoning."

Dan Randolph, executive director, San Juan Citizens Alliance, said: "Only with accurate knowledge of releases can the public and the regulators, as well as industry itself, have a meaningful debate. It is in everyone’s interest to have access to data. Without this, we will only continue to talk past one another."

Robert (Bob) Donnan, citizen advocate of McMurray, Washington County, Pennsylvania, said: "Communities in the tristate area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are literally being surrounded by dangerous emissions from major gas processing facilities that are not being properly controlled or reported. These communities have a right to know what they are being exposed to. Someone should be measuring the growing cumulative impacts."

Adam Kron, attorney, Environmental Integrity Project, said: "By adding the oil and gas extraction industry to the TRI, EPA would make available to the public high-quality and unique information on the toxic chemicals that each oil and gas facility releases to the air, land, and water. This information is critical to individual health, community planning, and the decision making of local, state, and federal governments. If EPA finally requires the oil and gas industry to report to the TRI, the public could obtain this data online for free without any delay."

 

For industries not exempted from reporting, the TRI provides free and publicly accessible information in a searchable online database. Facilities annually report the amount of each toxic chemical they use and how the chemicals were released or disposed of: e.g., to the air, land, or water. By contrast, the state emissions inventories from which EIP drew its data are reported on varying time cycles, exclude certain facilities, are not all available online without charge, and provide data only on air releases—and not releases to water or land. The groups’ letter notes that TRI reporting would provide far better information, and this weighs strongly in favor of requiring the oil and gas extraction industry to report to the TRI.

The data and letter urging EPA’s action were submitted by the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizen Shale, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, PennEnvironment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.