Study: Close EPA emissions loophole for O&G
Wyoming Business Report | Mark Wilcox
January 30, 2014
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According to a new study, Wyoming is home to 14 oil and gas sites that emit more than 10,000 pounds of at least one toxic chemical annually, though only five of those exceeded the threshold in two separate years. Even so, the sites don’t have to report the emissions because of what the nonprofit conducting the study called “an arbitrary loophole” with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Environmental Integrity Project detailed Wyoming emissions and said that the oil and gas industry is excluded from reporting to the public Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) managed by the EPA. The inventory was created in 1986 and in the 1990s the EPA re-evaluated included industries, again omitting the oil and gas industry.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says on its website that the omission was intentional.
“When Congress enacted the TRI program, it applied to manufacturing operations only,” the association wrote. “It did not cover, nor intend to cover, oil and natural gas production. In the mid-1990s EPA evaluated expanding which industry categories were subject to reporting under TRI. EPA concluded that the oil and natural gas production industry should not be added to TRI reporting.”
The association did not expound on why oil and gas were excluded once more.
But that doesn’t mean no data is available. It’s just more intermittent. In Wyoming, the study pointed to Colorado Interstate Gas Co.’s Rawlins plant; Merit Energy Co.’s East Painter Facility and Anschutz Ranch East, both in Uinta County; Kinder Morgan Production Co. LLC’s Douglas Gas Plant; and Wgr Operating LP’s Hilight-Reno Junction gas plant in Campbell County as repeat offenders.
Four of the five plants were called out for their formaldehyde emissions, which were as high as about 109,000 pounds at the Rawlins plant in 2008, though the number dropped to about 25,000 pounds by 2011. Meanwhile, Anschutz Ranch East was fingered for its hexane emissions, which averaged 23,000 pounds and actually ramped up by about 4,000 pounds between 2008 and 2011, the two most recent years data were available.
“We are in the middle of an oil and gas boom, but have far too little information about the environmental consequences,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “Our research shows that many of these oil and gas plants emit tens of thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants every year, but that data was hard to get and incomplete. We need this industry to report that pollution to the Toxics Release Inventory where everyone can see it – just like chemical plants and other facilities have done for more than 20 years.”
Sharon Wilson, Texas organizer for Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, echoed him in a statement.
“The Toxics Release Inventory would require fracking companies to give people information about threats to their families’ health,” she said. “Without the TRI, the oil and gas industry not only pollutes with impunity, it’s not even required to inform the people it is poisoning.”
In the six energy-boom states of Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming – the project identified 395 facilities that are emitting a combined 8.5 million tons of toxic chemicals each year, the release stated.