Toxic Secrets Not to be Tolerated: 17 Groups Push for Toxics Disclosure
Conservative estimates show that extraction and processing of oil and gas releases about 130,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants in the U.S. each year. Yet the industry is not required to report toxic chemical releases to the Toxics Release Inventory.
Make sense? Only if you are an industry CEO, or a good political friend of the industry. This is one more “toxic secret” this industry has been privileged to keep, while the general public goes to sleep imagining that the EPA and state agencies are protecting public health. Turns out the EPA and state agencies are not even protecting communities’ right to know, and 17 groups just set out to change that.
The Environmental Integrity Project petitioned this week, along with 16 public interest groups, for disclosure of toxic chemicals released during oil and gas exploration and processing.
EIP and sixteen other public interest groups petitioned the US EPA to require that toxic pollutants released during oil and gas extraction (including “fracking” and downstream processing) be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Oil and gas extraction releases nearly 130,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants a year, second only to coal-fired power plants. Public release of data through annual TRI reports can give communities vital information about the environmental footprint of this rapidly growing industry, and help companies set benchmarks for reducing their pollution.
An excerpt from EIP’s fact sheet (please read complete factsheet for footnotes) is worth reading twice:
A congressional report based on voluntary disclosures by the industry found that the industry
regularly uses products containing at least forty-five TRI-listed [Toxics Release Inventory] chemicals, the most common of which are: methanol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol.
Other TRI pollutants released when gas is flared or vented to the environment include benzene (a known
carcinogen), hydrogen sulfide, and n-hexane.
EPA estimates that the industry emits at least 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every
year, including benzene, xylenes, and hydrogen sulfide.
This is more than any TRIreporting industry except electric utilities, and equivalent to thirty percent of the total release of hazardous air pollutants reported to the TRI for 2010.
EPA has also estimated that the average natural gas wellhead leaks hazardous air pollutants
at a rate of 0.671 tons per year…
EPA investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming, and Dimock, Pennsylvania found TRI-listed chemicals and methane present in groundwater and drinking water wells near natural gas development. In Pavillion, these pollutants included benzene forty-nine times higher than EPA’s drinking water standards, and the Dimock investigation detected multiple TRI-listed chemicals in fifty-seven of fifty-seven wells sampled.
No one should have to petition for our basic right to know. The action taken by all 17 groups should be met by a howl of support for ripping away the feudal darkness surrounding an industry that has poisoned too many lives already.