The US Environmental Protection Agency is planning to propose regulations that require natural gas processing plants to begin reporting toxic chemicals released from their sites for inclusion in the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
In response to a petition and lawsuit by environmental and open government organizations, EPA has determined that the appropriate course of action at this time is to propose adding natural gas processing facilities to the scope of TRI, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in a recent letter to the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and nine partner organizations that sued the agency in January amid allegations of a decade-long failure on the part of the agency to require the oil and gas extraction industry to report pollution to the federal government and public.
Following detailed evaluation, the agency found that more than half of 551 natural gas processing plants in the US would meet the size thresholds for reporting xylenes, benzene, formaldehyde, hexane, and other toxic air and water pollution to the TRI.
EPA said it estimates that US gas processing plants manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than 25 different TRI-listed chemicals, which alongside benzene and xylene, include hydrogen sulfide, toluene, and ethylbenzene.
According to EPA, the addition of gas processing facilities to TRI would meaningfully increase the information available to the public, as well as provide important release and waste management data unlikely to be obtained elsewhere.
Under EPA’s forthcoming proposal, gas processing plants would have to start reporting their emissions of toxic chemicals, including xylenes, formaldehyde, and benzene, according to EIP.
A timeframe for release of the proposed rule was not disclosed.
With the exception of gas processing plants, EPA denied separate requests from petitioners to expand the scope of TRI-reporting to additional oil and gas extraction industrial subsectors as identified by the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), including:
• Crude petroleum and natural gas extraction (NAICS 211111).
• Gas liquid extraction (NAICS 211112).
• Drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111).
• Support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112).
• Oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction (NAICS 237120).
• Site preparation contractors (NAICS 238910).
• Geophysical surveying and mapping services (NAICS 541360).
In rejecting the request for rule proposals that would cover the additional subsectors, EPA reiterated that it currently is undertaking a number of rulemaking, research, guidance, and other outreach activities aimed at the oil and gas extraction sector.
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