EPA to expand toxic chemical reporting

If a new Environmental Protection Agency proposal is confirmed, large oil and gas processing facilities would be required to publicly report more details on the pollutants they emit. Many other industries are required to list their toxic pollution emissions in the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), an online public database, but large oil and gas processors have been exempt.

The EPA's decision to add the large oil and gas facilities to the TRI settled a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Integrity Project and nine other environmental and open-government groups this past January. The EPA's formal rule-making procedure, however, would likely delay any official mandate by two years.

Once implemented, the new rule could affect more than half of the 517 natural gas processing plants in the United States. According to the EPA, those facilities manufacture, process or otherwise use more than 25 different chemicals that must be disclosed through the TRI, including known carcinogens benzene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

Those who would remain exempt from the additional reporting include shale gas well sites, compressor stations, pipelines and other processing facilities that employ fewer than 10 people.

"We wanted them all included, but the fact that the EPA added the processing plants, while not everything we were looking for, is an improvement," said Tom Pelton, a spokesman for the Environmental Integrity Project, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In a "letter of determination," sent to the Environmental Integrity Project, the EPA acknowledged that adding gas processing facilities to the TRI would "meaningfully increase the information available to the public" about their toxic emissions. This is especially impactful for the EPA-estimated 42 million people living within 30 miles of large gas processing facilities.

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