On October 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced they will propose to add natural gas processing plants to the list of facilities that must report their toxic emissions to the public. This decision came from a lawsuit Earthworks joined and filed by our friends at the Environmental Integrity Project and other organizations.
In the wake of the tragic 1986 Bhopal disaster, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). This law created a platform called the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) that allows the public to search their neighborhoods to learn about nearby toxic pollution.
Citizens can also petition the EPA to add new industries to the TRI. The last time EPA did so was back in 1998, when, at the urging of Earthworks, EPA required the hardrock mining industry to report their toxic releases. Since these reports became available, that industry has been the nation’s largest toxic polluter.
This Time It’s Personal
The TRI provides a great resource for communities. Imagine a family needs to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth or Pittsburgh metro areas. This family wants to buy a home and enroll their kids in school. Driving around the neighborhoods, the family sees (and smells) large natural gas processing plants and wonders how much toxic pollutants these facilities release. The TRI allows this family to search by zip code to find out.
Is there one near you? Look here.
Holding Industry Accountable
The EPA did not grant us everything we petitioned for. We had hoped they would require reporting from all parts of the natural gas industry, particularly individual wells and compressor stations. This decision applies only to large natural gas processing plants. But, EPA will soon make their proposed rule available for comment. This gives us an opportunity to ask EPA to include toxic reporting from all the rest.
The oil and gas industry enjoys broad exemptions from seven of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, including EPCRA. EPA’s decision closes a small part of one of them by arming communities with some information to hold this industry accountable.