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Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Frack Chem Disclosure

A coalition of nine environmental groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after the agency didn't respond to a 2012 request that the oil and gas industry be forced to disclose what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia [No. 1:15-CV-17]. Lead plaintiff, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), said the lawsuit was prompted by EPA not acting on its request in October 2012 to have fracking chemicals listed on the agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)  (see Shale DailyOct. 25, 2012). The defendants are the EPA and Administrator Gina McCarthy. No trial date has been set.

"The groups' goal is for EPA finally to include the oil and gas extraction industry in the federal TRI, so that the public, regulators, and industry itself can evaluate the full extent of the industry's toxic pollution releases," EIP stated. "In the past, EPA has the exercised its authority to expand the list of industries that must report toxic emissions to TRI -- [for example], requiring power plants and mining companies to report -- but has never done so for the oil and gas sector."

Eight environmental groups joining EIP as plaintiffs are Center for Effective Government, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, Clear Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Responsible Drilling Alliance and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

"Due to EPA's long inaction, the oil and gas extraction industry remains exempt from the TRI, one of our nation's most basic toxic reporting mechanisms," said EIP counsel Adam Kron. "The TRI requires just one thing: annual reporting to the public. This reporting is critical to health, community planning, and informed decision making. Whether to add the oil and gas extraction industry shouldn't even be a question at this point."

A total of 17 groups had petitioned EPA two years ago to have fracking chemicals added to TRI. Besides the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit, they included CitizenShale, Clean Water Action, Earthworks, Elected Officials to Protect New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, OMB Watch, PennEnvironment, Powder River Basin Resource Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Sierra Club.

At the time, part of the reasoning behind EPA declining to add fracking chemicals to TRI was that producers were already required to disclose the chemicals to state regulators, and the information was subsequently available to the public. EPA also wanted to avoid being overwhelmed by TRI reporting from hundreds of thousands of oil and gas sites.

TRI tracks how certain toxic chemicals are managed. Facilities in different industry sectors in the United States are required to submit annual reports over how much of each chemical is released to the environment, recycled or used in energy recovery and treatment operations. TRI was established by Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 and covers more than 650 toxic chemicals.

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