Fracking Data Sought by Environmental Groups in EPA Lawsuit (3)

(Bloomberg) — A coalition of advocacy groups sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency seeking 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.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday 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.

In another case over hydraulic fracturing, an environmental
advocacy group today sued the Obama administration for records
disclosing “where, when and how much fracking has occurred” in
the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Wells

The federal government has authorized fracking for at least
115 wells in the Gulf, with details unknown because the two
Interior Department offices in charge of issuing permits haven’t
complied with an open-records law request, according to the
lawsuit. It was filed in federal court in Washington by the
Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson, Arizona.

The need for disclosure on fracking is particularly
pressing now because it has increased the variety and volume of
toxic chemicals released into the air, ground and water, Kron,
referring to the Environmental Integrity Project suit.

Liz Purchia, an EPA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the
complaint.

The nine environmental and open-government groups bringing
the suit are asking that the EPA require oil and gas companies
to join coal mines, electric utilities and other industries in
reporting deadly chemicals used or released to the Toxics
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.

Industry Spokesman

“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 Energy in
Depth, a program of 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 Environmental Integrity
Project 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, referring to the Toxics Release Inventory.

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.

States Diverge

New York’s highest court ruled in June that the state’s
municipalities can ban the practice. In July, a voter-enacted
prohibition in Longmont, Colorado, was struck down by a state
court judge.

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 chemicals case is Environmental Integrity Project v.
U.S. EPA, 1:55-cv-00017, and the Gulf of Mexico records suit is
Center for Biological Diversity v. Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement, 1:15-cv-00022, U.S. District Court,
District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporters on this story:
Andrew Zajac in federal court 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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