In Response to Lawsuit by EIP and Allies, EPA Requires Natural Gas Processing Plants to Report Emissions to Toxics Release Inventory
Washington, D.C. – In a change of directions from the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency today released final regulations that will require natural gas processing plants to start publicly reporting the toxic chemicals they release.
“We celebrate the Biden Administration’s plan to require several hundred large natural gas processors to begin publicly disclosing their emissions of toxic chemicals,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA. “These disclosure requirements will make it easier to hold gas processors accountable for their chemical pollutants, and keep nearby communities informed about potential risks to public health.”
The Environmental Integrity Project worked with 18 allied organizations, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, to sue EPA in January 2015 to require natural gas processing plants to start reporting their pollution to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), an online public database that has existed for thirty years and to which most other industries have long reported.
On October 22, 2015, EPA responded to the lawsuit by saying it would begin a rulemaking process to propose adding natural gas processing facilities to the scope of TRI. Then, on January 6, 2017, EPA released proposed regulations that would have required natural gas processing plants to start publicly reporting the toxic chemicals they release.
However, the Trump Administration quickly shelved the proposal when it took office on January 20, 2017, and the proposal went nowhere for more than four years.
Today, the Biden Administration reversed course from the Trump EPA and released a final version of the rule requiring the public disclosures of pollution. The regulations are scheduled to be published tomorrow in the Federal Register, but a copy was posted online today.
Congress established the Toxics Release Inventory in 1986 to inform the public about the release of sometimes carcinogenic chemicals (such as benzene) from industries in the wake of the deadly 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which toxic gases killed thousands of local residents.
EPA has stated that there are more than 500 natural gas processing facilities in the lower-48 states, and more than half of these plants would meet the Toxics Release Inventory’s chemical reporting thresholds for twenty-one different toxic chemicals, including benzene (a carcinogen), hydrogen sulfide, n-hexane, and methanol.
Under EPA’s proposed regulations, between 281 to 444 natural gas processing facilities across the U.S. would have to start reporting their releases of toxic chemicals, including xylenes (which can cause breathing problems, headaches, and neurological problems) and formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen and damages the respiratory system).
Not included in EPA’s decision are drilling well sites, compressor stations, pipelines, and other smaller facilities that employ fewer than 10 people.
In 2012, EPA estimated that the oil and gas extraction industry emits at least 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, all of which are TRI-listed chemicals. Based on these estimates, the oil and gas extraction industry releases more toxic pollution to the air than any other industry except for power plants.
The Energy Information Administration’s website provides a current listing and location of natural gas processing facilities across the U.S.
EIP’s allies in the fight for more public disclosure of the pollutants and co-petitioners in the case are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, CitizenShale, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, Elected Officials to Protect New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, PennEnvironment, PennFuture, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Project on Government Oversight, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, and Texas Campaign for the Environment.
For a copy of the regulations, click here.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a 19-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.
Media contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, (443) 510-2574 or firstname.lastname@example.org