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Group Petitions EPA for Fracking Toxicity Data

Environmentalists call for public reporting of chemicals in oil, gas extraction

Common Dreams staff

We may soon find out what toxic chemicals are being contained in fracking ponds. (Photo by arimoore via Flickr)

On Wednesday, a coalition of 17 environmental groups petitioned the EPA demanding that the oil and gas extracting companies—particularly those that participate in fracking—be held to the same standards as other sectors of the industry.

The statement called for extracting companies to report emissions to the Toxic Release Inventory, declaring that they've "long used and released large amounts of TRI-listed toxic chemicals," the amount of which has "dramatically increased in the last decade with the rapid spread of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”)."

Eric Schaeffer, Director of Environmental Integrity Project which is spearheading this action, writes “the Toxics Release Inventory brings daylight to dark corners, by requiring companies to quantify and report their pollution to a public data base for everyone to see.” The press release (pdf) continues:

The U.S. 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.

The EIP hopes to make finally public information that has yet to be available to citizens, communities and lawmakers. Despite the many indications of the toxicity of the chemicals used in shale oil and gas removal, the extraction industry is one of the few within the energy sector that does not report to the TRI.


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Writing for ProPublica, Cora Currier says that extraction companies have heretofore hid behind a '"trade secrets" provision under which companies can claim that a proprietary chemical doesn't have to be disclosed to regulators or the public."

The press release continues:

The oil and gas extraction industry is also uniquely exempt from many key provisions of our major environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

“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," said Wyoming resident and Powder River Basin Resource Council organizer Deb Thomas. "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.”

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