The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should force oil and natural-gas producers to disclose the chemicals they release during drilling, hydraulic fracturing, compressing and storage, environmental groups said.
The Environmental Integrity Project and 16 other groups in a petition today said the information is necessary to inform local residents about pollutants released into the air, water and land. Disclosure also would prod companies to reduce their chemical pollution, according to the petition to the EPA.
“At the very least, we have the right to know what these companies are using and releasing as part of their oil and gas production,” Jane Davenport, senior attorney for Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said today on a conference call with reporters.
The EPA requires electricity producers, many manufacturers and some mining operators to report chemicals that are released to its Toxic Release Inventory. The disclosure isn’t tied to regulations or permitting requirements, and instead is meant to give citizens information about air, water and land pollution.
“We have received the petition and will respond appropriately,” David Bloomgren, a spokesman for the EPA, said in an e-mail.
U.S. gas and oil production is booming in part because drillers are using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to free gas trapped in underground rock. That development has driven down the price natural gas, and spurred job growth in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Dakota.
“We support compliance with existing requirements, and in fact we often go beyond those requirements,” Dan Whitten, a spokesman for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which includes Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp., said in an e-mail. “Thanks to the natural-gas community’s commitment to safe and responsible development, and our work with state regulators, people don’t have to choose between the many energy security, air quality and economic benefits natural gas brings, and a clean environment.”
Gas production has prompted complaints from nearby residents, who say their wells have been tainted by chemicals seeping into aquifers or spills at drilling sites. Also, air pollution from methane and air toxic emissions during drilling is a frequent concern.
“The EPA estimates the oil and gas industry releases 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, second only to power plants and more than any of the other industries already reporting” it, Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. “Why shouldn’t oil and gas companies be required to report these toxic releases under our right-to-know laws, like so many other industries already do?”