Fracking Data Sought by Environmental Groups in EPA Lawsuit

(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

gas drilling.

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

complaint.

Toxic Disclosure

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

database.

The suit was criticized by a petroleum industry advocate as

an attempt to force oil and gas producers into an unnecessary

reporting requirement.

“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.

New Industries

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

interview.

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

(Washington).

To contact the reporters on this story:

Andrew Zajac in Washington at

azajac@bloomberg.net;

Mark Drajem in Washington at

mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Michael Hytha at

mhytha@bloomberg.net

Joe Schneider, Charles Carter

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