(Bloomberg) — A coalition of advocacy groups sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency for public access to information
on toxic chemicals released by the energy industry through
hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other forms of oil and
Fracking involves the injection of water, chemicals and
sand below ground to extract oil and gas from shale formations.
The process has been criticized as environmentally dangerous,
even as its use has driven U.S. natural gas production to new
highs amid litigation across the country.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in Washington federal court, follows
a petition by the groups to the regulator in 2012 seeking a rule
that would require oil and gas companies to disclose such
pollution to a government database.
“Because federal and state disclosure requirements are
full of gaps and exemptions and otherwise have not kept pace
with industry expansion, public information about the oil and
gas extraction industry’s use and release of these toxic
chemicals remains scant,” Adam Kron, a lawyer for the
Environmental Integrity Project, wrote in the complaint.
The need for disclosure is particularly pressing now
because the boom in fracking has increased the variety and
volume of toxic chemicals released into the air, ground and
water, according to the lawsuit.
Liz Purchia, an EPA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the
The nine environmental and open-government groups bringing
the suit want the EPA to require that oil and gas companies join
coal mines, electric utilities and other industries in reporting
deadly chemicals used or released to the Toxic Release Inventory
The suit was criticized by a petroleum industry advocate as
an attempt to force oil and gas producers into an unnecessary
“What EIP fails to grasp, and has actually refused to
acknowledge for several years, is that the TRI was never
intended to cover oil and gas production, which is already
subject to numerous environmental regulations at the state and
federal level,” said Steve Everley, a spokesman for the
Independent Petroleum Association of America.
EPA has the authority to add industries to the disclosure
program and the agency considered doing so for oil and gas
producers, according to Kron, the EIP attorney.
“At the end of the day, the TRI is just asking that you
put your data on the table,” Kron said earlier in a phone
More than 400 measures to prevent or control fracking have
been passed by U.S. cities and counties, according to Food &
Water Watch, a Washington-based environmental advocacy group.
While New York’s highest court ruled in June that the
state’s municipalities can ban the practice, a voter-enacted
prohibition in Longmont, Colorado, was struck down by a state
court judge in July.
Some states mandate reporting of fracking chemicals to
FracFocus, an industry-supported public database.
Critics of FracFocus say it is inadequate because it leaves
it up to oil and gas companies to decide which chemicals are
trade secrets exempt from disclosure.
The case is Environmental Integrity Project v. U.S. EPA,
15-cv-17, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia
To contact the reporters on this story:
Andrew Zajac in Washington at
Mark Drajem in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Michael Hytha at
Joe Schneider, Charles Carter