Oil, gas industry urged to be more transparent

Oil, gas industry urged to be more transparent by Don Hopey, October 25, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The rapidly expanding oil and gas industry is not required to report toxic chemical releases related to drilling and hydraulic fracturing to federal regulators like many other industries, but 17 environmental groups say it should. Those groups Wednesday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require the oil and gas industry to report its air and water emissions to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. TRI is a database containing information on the disposal and release of more than 650 toxic chemicals from thousands of manufacturing, mining, chemical and electric power facilities nationwide. Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocate for enforcement of environmental laws, said adding the industry to TRI will “allow citizens, industries and government agencies to better decide how resources can be developed responsibly.”

Adam Kron, an attorney with EIP, said EPA estimates show oil and gas development, storage and gas processing facilities release 127,000 tons of hazardous chemicals into the air and water each year, second only to coal-fired power plants.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a gas industry lobbying group, said it opposes any listing of its emissions and discharges. [Emphasis added]

17 Groups Petition EPA for Public Reporting of Chemical Releases from Fracking, other Oil and Gas Operations by Environmental Integrity Project, Earthworks, and others, October 24, 2012
“As a mother, wife, community member, and individual suffering health issues caused by breathing toxic emissions, such as benzene, from a natural gas compressor site, I am very concerned about the impact the oil and gas industry is having on human life and the environment,” said Pam Judy, a resident of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.  “I am dismayed that there is not an adequate federal disclosure requirement that would provide individuals with the information necessary to make decisions regarding their health and safety.” Data on the oil and gas industry (including fracking) points to a large toxic footprint.  EPA has estimated that the industry emits 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, including benzene, xylenes, and hydrogen sulfide—more than any other TRI industry except electric utilities.  And EPA investigations of natural gas development in Pavillion, Wyoming, and Dimock, Pennsylvania, found toxic chemicals and methane present in groundwater and drinking water wells.  In fact, a Congressional report based on industry data found that the industry regularly uses products containing at least 45 TRI-listed toxic chemicals, the most common of which are: methanol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol.

“I don’t just work with Powder River Basin Resource Council members in Pavillion, Deaver, and Clark, Wyoming, who are severely impacted by contamination from oil and gas development.  I also live with it,” said Deb Thomas, Powder River Basin Resource Council organizer and resident of Clark, Wyoming.  “For those of us who fear our health is being affected by this industry, disclosure of the chemicals and constituents used during development is extremely important.  We need to know what we’re being exposed to so that physicians can diagnose and treat our health problems and we can make informed decisions about staying in the communities we live in.  It is a human right to know what toxic materials are being stored and used where we live and work.”

Lynn Thorp, national campaigns director, Clean Water Action: “Inclusion of oil and gas sector pollution data in the Toxics Release Inventory is long overdue, and will provide people the information they need to protect their health, their drinking water, and their communities.”

Bruce Baizel, senior staff attorney, Earthworks: “Industry claims oil and gas development is safe.  Yet it blocks access to the information the public needs to judge for themselves.  EPA can and should stop the oil and gas industry from talking out both sides of its mouth, and require it to report its chemical releases to the Toxics Release Inventory.”

Amy Mall, senior policy analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council: “The oil and gas industry has enjoyed exemptions from our most important environmental laws for far too long.  EPA has a responsibility to look out for the best interests of Americans’ health and environment – not polluters. It’s time for the fracking industry to report the chemicals they release into our communities, just like other businesses must.”

Sean Moulton, director of Federal Information Policy, OMB Watch: “No state is requiring enough upfront collection of baseline data and ongoing monitoring to adequately protect local water supplies and public health. Citizens need adequate information to evaluate the potential risks of allowing fracking in their communities.  At the federal level, the EPA should add the oil and gas extraction industry to the Toxics Release Inventory program to help fill the information gap that currently exists.”

Deb Nardone, Beyond Natural Gas Campaign director, Sierra Club: “People have the right to know when the oil and gas industry dumps toxic pollution into our air and water, and it’s high time the gas industry started playing by the same rules as everyone else.  We strongly urge the Environmental Protection Agency to require mandatory reporting and tracking of all the toxic chemicals that the gas industry uses and releases into our communities.”

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum: “Communities are already suffering from the environmental and health impacts of the shale gas industry’s use of hundreds of chemicals in the drilling and fracking of thousands of wells, with no idea of which chemicals are responsible for these impacts. Industry cannot truthfully claim that fracking is safe while refusing to disclose what toxics it puts into drilling muds and fracking fluids and what toxics come out of its wells. Our right to know what is contaminating our water, air, and soil so we can take the necessary steps to protect our families, communities, and the ecosystems on which we all depend fundamentally outweighs the industry’s interests in keeping its toxic cocktails secret.”

Dominic Frongillo, Deputy Town Supervisor of Caroline, New York, and Founder of Elected Officials to Protect New York: “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.”

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